Population genetics of the brooding coral Seriatopora hystrix reveals patterns of strong genetic differentiation in the Western Indian Ocean.

Rosa M van der Ven, Jean-François Flot, Carol Buitrago-López, Marc Kochzius

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5 Scopus citations


Coral reefs provide essential goods and services but are degrading at an alarming rate due to local and global anthropogenic stressors. The main limitation that prevents the implementation of adequate conservation measures is that connectivity and genetic structure of populations are poorly known. Here, the genetic diversity and connectivity of the brooding scleractinian coral Seriatopora hystrix were assessed at two scales by genotyping ten microsatellite markers for 356 individual colonies. S. hystrix showed high differentiation, both at large scale between the Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), and at smaller scale along the coast of East Africa. As such high levels of differentiation might indicate the presence of more than one species, a haploweb analysis was conducted with the nuclear marker ITS2, confirming that the Red Sea populations are genetically distinct from the WIO ones. Based on microsatellite analyses three groups could be distinguished within the WIO: (1) northern Madagascar, (2) south-west Madagascar together with one site in northern Mozambique (Nacala) and (3) all other sites in northern Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. These patterns of restricted connectivity could be explained by the short pelagic larval duration of S. hystrix, and/or by oceanographic factors, such as eddies in the Mozambique Channel (causing larval retention in northern Madagascar but facilitating dispersal from northern Mozambique towards south-west Madagascar). This study provides an additional line of evidence supporting the conservation priority status of the Northern Mozambique Channel and should inform coral reef management decisions in the region.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Oct 30 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-11-02
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the funding agencies that supported our work: Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen (FWO) for funding the project, Connectivity of Coral Reefs and Mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean (COCOMA-WIO; grant 1501612N); the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) (OZR2068BOF) and the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique—FNRS (research grant J.0272.17 to JFF) for additional support; the Vlaamse Interuniversitaire—Raad Universitaire Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (VLIR-UOS), the doctoral school (VUB), and the Leopold III Fund for nature research and conservation for providing travel grants to RMV; European Union Erasmus Mundus Programme CARIBU, VLIR-UOS and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) for providing travel grants to MK; T. Sierens (VUB) for assistance during laboratory work; H.A. Ratsimbazafy (VUB and Université de Tuléar, Madagascar), L. Otwoma (VUB and Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Kenya) and B. Cowburn (University of Oxford, UK) for collecting samples; D. De Ryck (VUB), F. Huyghe (VUB), M.S. Mohammed (State University of Zanzibar, Tanzania), V. Muhala (Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique) and M. Berumen (King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia) for assistance during fieldwork; M. Sheikh (State University of Zanzibar, Tanzania) for logistical support; the competent authorities in Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania for permits; L. Triest (VUB) for help with analyses and interpretation of the results; B. Vanschoenwinkel (VUB), N. van Hoytema (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), UK) and N. Hicks (University of Essex, UK) for proofreading the paper and making critical suggestions to improve it. Lastly, we would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and improvements of the paper.


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