Comparative phylogeography of reef fishes from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea reveals two cryptic lineages

Joseph DiBattista, Michelle R. Gaither, Jean-Paul A. Hobbs, Pablo Saenz Agudelo, Marek J. Piatek, Brian W. Bowen, Luiz A. Rocha, J. Howard Choat, Jennifer H. McIlwain, Mark Priest, Tane Sinclair-Taylor, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Arabian Sea is a heterogeneous region with high coral cover and warm stable conditions at the western end (Djibouti), in contrast to sparse coral cover, cooler temperatures, and upwelling at the eastern end (southern Oman). We tested for barriers to dispersal across this region (including the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Oman), using mitochondrial DNA surveys of 11 reef fishes. Study species included seven taxa from six families with broad distributions across the Indo-Pacific and four species restricted to the Arabian Sea (and adjacent areas). Nine species showed no significant genetic partitions, indicating connectivity among contrasting environments spread across 2000 km. One butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus) and a snapper (Lutjanus kasmira) showed phylogenetic divergences of d = 0.008 and 0.048, respectively, possibly indicating cryptic species within these broadly distributed taxa. These genetic partitions at the western periphery of the Indo-Pacific reflect similar partitions recently discovered at the eastern periphery of the Indo-Pacific (the Hawaiian and the Marquesan Archipelagos), indicating that these disjunctive habitats at the ends of the range may serve as evolutionary incubators for coral reef organisms.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-638
Number of pages14
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

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, Nicolas Prévot at Dolphin Divers and the crew of the M/V Deli in Djibouti, the Somaliland Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources as well as Abdinasir A. Ibrahim and Khalid Osman at Somaliland Travel & Tours Agency, the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab and Amr Gusti, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Oman including Abdul Karim, as well as the University of Milano-Bicocca Marine Research and High Education Centre in Magoodhoo, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Republic of Maldives and the community of Maghoodhoo, Faafu Atoll. We also acknowledge important contributions from David Catania for assistance with specimen archiving, Vanessa Robitzch for specimen collection, Craig Skepper for providing otolith samples, John E. Randall for providing photographs, Shelley Jones for proofing references, as well as Sivakumar Neelamegam and Hicham Mansour with the KAUST Bioscience Core Laboratory for their assistance with Sanger sequencing. We thank the topic editor Line Bay, John Horne, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which improved the quality of this work. This research was supported by the KAUST Office of Competitive Research Funds (OCRF) under Award No. CRG-1-2012-BER-002 and baseline research funds to MLB, National Geographic Society Grants 9024-11 and 9566-14 to JDD, National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0929031 and OCE-1558852 to BWB, and California Academy of Sciences funding to LAR.


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