Contrasting population genetic structure in three aggregating groupers (Percoidei: Epinephelidae) in the Indo-West Pacific: the importance of reproductive mode

Ka Yan Ma, Lynne Van Herwerden, Stephen J. Newman, Michael L. Berumen, John Howard Choat, Ka Hou Chu, Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson

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15 Scopus citations


Understanding the factors shaping population genetic structure is important for evolutionary considerations as well as for management and conservation. While studies have revealed the importance of palaeogeographic changes in shaping phylogeographic patterns in multiple marine fauna, the role of reproductive behaviour is rarely considered in reef fishes. We investigated the population genetics of three commercially important aggregating grouper species in the Indo-West Pacific, namely the camouflage grouper Epinephelus polyphekadion, the squaretail coral grouper Plectropomus areolatus, and the common coral trout P. leopardus, with similar life histories but distinct spatio-temporal characteristics in their patterns of forming spawning aggregations. By examining their mitochondrial control region and 9-11 microsatellite markers, we found an overarching influence of palaeogeographic events in the population structure of all species, with genetic breaks largely coinciding with major biogeographic barriers. The divergence time of major lineages in these species coincide with the Pleistocene glaciations. Higher connectivity is evident in E. polyphekadion and P. areolatus that assemble in larger numbers at fewer spawning aggregations and in distinctive offshore locations than in P. leopardus which has multiple small, shelf platform aggregations. While palaeogeographic events played an important role in shaping the population structure of the target species, the disparity in population connectivity detected may be partly attributable to differences in their reproductive behaviour, highlighting the need for more investigations on this characteristic and the need to consider reproductive mode in studies of connectivity and population genetics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 4 2018

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Acknowledgements We would like thank Alec Hughes and David Duchene (James Cook University), Ling Ming Tsang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), Min Liu (Xiamen University), Noah DesRosiers (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), and researchers in the Marine Research Centre in Maldives for their assistance in sample collections and/or molecular lab work, as well as inspiring discussion on this study. We also thank Wayne Mallett (James Cook University High Performance Computing Unit) for help with computer analyses. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that improved the manuscript. Funding This study was supported by a research fund from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region awarded to YSM (University of Hong Kong) and KHC (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) [project no. HKU 773908 M], funding from KAUST Red Sea Research Center awarded to MLB (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), and the James Cook University IRA fund to KYM.


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