Marine Biology

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 769–777 | Cite as

Population genetic analysis of red grouper, Epinephelus morio, and scamp, Mycteroperca phenax, from the southeastern U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

  • M. S. Zatcoff
  • A. O. BallEmail author
  • G. R. Sedberry
Research Article


The genetic population structure of red grouper, Epinephelus morio (Valenciennes), and scamp, Mycteroperca phenax Jordan and Swain, from the southeastern U.S. Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico was examined using nuclear microsatellite DNA markers in order to test the null hypothesis of panmixia throughout this range. Physical and biological data indicate that relatively isolated populations of these fish exist. Genetic variation was assessed at four microsatellite loci in red grouper and six loci in scamp. The fish were collected on different dates between 1991 and 2001. The microsatellite loci were highly polymorphic, with an average expected heterozygosity of 0.75 in red grouper and 0.68 in scamp. Heterozygote deficiencies (significant deviations from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, HWE) were found at two of four loci in all red grouper samples except the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and for all red grouper combined. In contrast, all loci conformed to HWE in the separate scamp samples. Minimal genetic differences distinguished southeastern U.S. Atlantic or Mexican red grouper from other localities, and no indication of genetic differentiation was observed in scamp. This large-scale genetic homogeneity may be attributed to ongoing gene flow and/or historical contact between present-day populations. For management purposes, genetic homogeneity does not necessarily imply a single stock. Because larval dispersal may be sufficient to homogenize gene frequencies but not to replenish depleted stocks, other data must be considered in the management of these species.


Reef Fish Yucatan Peninsula Genetic Homogeneity Heterozygote Deficiency Average Gene Diversity 
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 acknowledge R.W. Chapman for valuable consultations regarding genetic analyses and sample collections; and B. Luckhurst, T. Brulé, C. Koenig, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ MARMAP program, C. Veach, D. DeMaria, P. Morales, and J. Bradley for sample collections. C. Woodley and P. Rosel provided laboratory space and computer time, and P. Harris provided helpful information about grouper life history and fishery management. This research was supported in part by the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Series, the Slocum-Lunz Foundation, and MARFIN grant no. NA87FF0423, R.W. Chapman, P.I. This is contribution 525 of the South Carolina Marine Resources Center, P.O. Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422, FISHTEC contribution FT03-01, and contribution no. 243 of the Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina. These experiments complied with the current laws of the United States.

Supplementary material

Appendix 1–3

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grice Marine LaboratoryCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.South Carolina Department of Natural ResourcesMarine Resources Research InstituteCharlestonUSA
  3. 3.San DiegoUSA

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