An examination of introgression and incomplete lineage sorting among three closely related species of chocolate-dipped damselfish (genus: Chromis )

Song He, Vanessa S. N. Robitzch Sierra, Jean-Paul A. Hobbs, Michael J. Travers, Diego Lozano-Cortés, Michael L. Berumen, Joseph D. DiBattista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Aim To determine the impact of ecological and environmental histories on the evolution of coral reef damselfishes at two adjacent marine biogeographic suture zones. Location Indo-West Pacific, notably including two suture zones: Socotra and Christmas and Cocos/Keeling Islands. Taxon Chromis dimidiata, Chromis margaritifer, and Chromis fieldi. Methods We utilized a combination of nuclear and mitochondrial genetic markers in addition to visual abundance survey data of these fishes. Results Despite genetic patterns consistent with incomplete lineage sorting and relatively low genetic differentiation among the three studied Chromis species, there is evidence of hybridization between C. margaritifer and C. fieldi at Christmas Island based on molecular and visual identification. Introgression appears to be spreading westwards to other C. fieldi populations based on COI haplotype comparison. Moreover, the genetic distance between C. margaritifer and C. fieldi suggests that Pleistocene sea-level fluctuations may have contributed to allopatric divergence and secondary contact between these two closely related species. Main conclusions Our study highlights that evolutionary processes in coral reef fishes operate differently between suture zones, possibly due to different ecological and environmental predispositions regulating secondary contact of sister species. While secondary contact likely led to hybridization and introgression at Christmas and Cocos/Keeling Islands, none of those processes seem present at Socotra for the chocolate-dipped damselfish. This difference is likely due to an environmental barrier caused by hydrodynamic regimes in the Gulf of Aden.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5468-5478
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 19 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG-1-2012-BER-002
Acknowledgements: For support in Socotra, we thank the Ministry of Water and Environment of Yemen, staff at the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Socotra, and especially Salah Saeed Ahmed, Fouad Naseeb and Thabet Abdullah Khamis, as well as Ahmed Issa Ali Affrar from Socotra Specialist Tour for handling general logistics. For logistic support elsewhere, we thank Eric Mason at Dream Divers, the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab and Amr Gusti from KAUST, the Administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory, as well as the University of Milano-Bicocca Marine Research and High Education Centre in Magoodhoo, the Republic of Maldives' Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, and the community of Maghoodhoo, Faafu Atoll. We thank the Bioscience Core Laboratory at KAUST for their assistance with Sanger sequencing. We also acknowledge important contributions from Tane Sinclair-Taylor and Jean-François Flot for useful discussions and/or assistance with figures. This research was supported by the KAUST Office of Competitive Research Funds (OCRF) under Award No. CRG-1-2012-BER-002 and KAUST baseline research funds to M.L.B., as well as National Geographic Society grant 9024-11 to J.D.D.


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