Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 57–68 | Cite as

Contrasting population genetic structures of sympatric, mass-spawning Caribbean corals

  • Emily G. Severance
  • Stephen A. KarlEmail author
Research Article


Coral reef conservation management policy often focuses on larval retention and recruitment of marine fish with scant data available on important, less motile reef-building species such as corals. To evaluate the concept of population connectivity in corals, we tested whether broadcast spawning reproduction per se confers the same degree of dispersal to two sister species, Montastraea annularis (Anthozoa: Scleractinia; Ellis and Solander 1786) and M. faveolata (Ellis and Solander 1786), both dominant taxa in reefs of the northern Caribbean. Genetic analyses of ten nuclear DNA loci (seven microsatellite and three single-copy RFLP) reveal strikingly different patterns of population genetic subdivision for these closely related, sympatric species, in spite of likely identical dispersal abilities. Strong population genetic structure typified the architecture of M. annularis, whereas M.faveolata populations were principally genetically well mixed. A higher level of clonality was observed in M. annularis potentially because of a susceptibility to physical fragmentation. Clonality did not, however, significantly contribute to population genetic structure or low-level Hardy–Weinberg and linkage disequilibria observed in some populations. The lack of consistent association between reproductive mode and dispersal reinforces the perspective that population connectivity is not so much a function of predictable marine population source and sink relationships as is due to a more complex interface of oceanic currents interacting with and amplifying stochastic fluctuations in larval supply and settlement success. Our results support others promoting an overall ecosystem approach in marine protected area design.


Coral Reef Population Genetic Structure Marine Protected Area Marine Reserve Population Connectivity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank D. Hagman and E. Weil for providing samples from Mexico and Puerto Rico, respectively; A. Bass, C. Curtis, J. Garey, M. Garvey, K. Hayes, C. Lund, K. Overholtzer, L. Robbins, T. Schwartz and the staff at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for help in obtaining samples; A. Szmant for generously providing gamete bundles used for the genomic library construction; I Baums, B. Bowen, M. Craig, N. Knowlton, C. Puchulutegui, L. Rocha, A. Szmant, M. Zacks and anonymous reviewers for comments on this and previous drafts. Financial support for this work was provided by the Fred and Helen Tharp Foundation and Florida Sea Grant/Aylesworth Foundation grants to E.G.S. and by Florida Institute of Oceanography and National Science Foundation Grant in Systematics DEB 98-06905 to SAK.

Supplementary material

227_2006_332_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (67 kb)
Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, SCA 110University of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Stanley DivisionJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.The Hawai’i Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of Hawai’i, ManoaKaneoheUSA

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