Marine Biology

, 165:167 | Cite as

High genetic differentiation and low connectivity in the coral Pocillopora damicornis type β at different spatial scales in the Southwestern Indian Ocean and the Tropical Southwestern Pacific

  • Pauline Gélin
  • Agathe Pirog
  • Cécile Fauvelot
  • Hélène MagalonEmail author
Original paper


Studying genetic connectivity in marine populations aims to understand the dispersal of an organism through the seascape and thus its gene flow. Here, we focused on one lineage of the recently revised coral Pocillopora damicornis complex, P. damicornis type β, corresponding to Primary Species Hypothesis PSH05 in Gélin et al. (Mol Phylogenet Evol 109:430–446, 2017b): it had been hypothesized that P. damicornis type β encompasses four distinct lineages, representing Secondary Species Hypotheses (SSH05a, SSH05b, SSH05c and SSH05d). The aim of the present study was to confirm this partition and to infer the genetic structuring and connectivity among 27 populations for this widespread and common scleractinian. For this, a total of 1418 colonies were hierarchically sampled from two marine provinces of the southern parts of its distribution range, which remain largely understudied: the Western Indian Ocean and the Tropical Southwestern Pacific. Using 13 microsatellite loci and assignment tests, our findings confirmed the partition into four SSHs, each SSH splitting into clusters, suggesting that P. damicornis type β may represent a complex of cryptic species. Moreover, within each SSH, clonal propagation was evidenced in almost every population, but clonal dispersal was mostly restricted to sampling site (except in Reunion Island and northern Madagascar, where clones were found in several populations approximately 50 km apart). Nevertheless, wherever the cursor of species level is placed (one or several species), populations were highly differentiated both within the Western Indian Ocean and the Tropical Southwestern Pacific, suggesting restricted gene flow at different spatial scales (marine province, ecoregions, islands/regions), leading to diverging lineages.



Coral sampling in New Caledonia (HM) was carried out during COBELO (, BIBELOT (, and CHEST ( oceanographic campaigns on board of RV Alis (IRD), and in the North-East and North-West of Madagascar during MAD ( oceanographic campaign on board of RV Antea (IRD). Sampling in Reunion Island (HM, PG) was supported by program CONPOCINPA (LabEx CORAIL fund); in South Madagascar (HM) in collaboration with the Institut Halieutique des Sciences Marines (Tulear) and in Rodrigues Island (HM) with the collaboration of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and the South-East Marine Protected Area supported by project Biodiversity (POCT FEDER fund); in Juan de Nova (HM) by program BIORECIE (financial supports from INEE, INSU, IRD, AAMP, FRB, TAAF, and the foundation Veolia Environnement); in Mayotte (HM) by program SIREME (FED). We acknowledge the Plateforme Gentyane of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA, Clermont-Ferrand, France) for guidance and technical support. The first author was financially supported by a PhD contract from the LabEx CORAIL. We thank the reviewers for their comments to improve the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

We declare that all applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained: New Caledonia: authorization no. 2432-2012/ARR/DENV, no. 2660-2013/ARR/DENV, no. 60912-25-28-2012/JJC, no. 60455-15-25/JJC, no. 6161-37/PR. Reunion Island: authorization no. 14-2013/DEAL/SEB/UBIO. Madagascar: authorization no. 16/1040-AE/SG/DAJC/SAG/NAV/FRANCE. Rodrigues Island: authorization no. MU 140897/Regional Assembly. Mayotte: authorization no. 2016-31/DMSOI. Juan de Nova: authorization no. 2013-66/TAAF.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR ENTROPIE (Université de La Réunion, IRD, CNRS), Université de La Réunion, Faculté des Sciences et TechnologiesSt Denis Cedex 09France
  2. 2.UMR ENTROPIE (IRD, Université de La Réunion, CNRS), centre IRD de NouméaNouméaFrance
  3. 3.Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, FRE, 3729 ECOMERS, Parc ValroseNiceFrance
  4. 4.Laboratoire d’excellence-CORAILPerpignanFrance

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