Genetic differentiation across multiple spatial scales of the Red Sea of the corals Stylophora pistillata and Pocillopora verrucosa
AdvisorsBerumen, Michael L.
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Marine Science Program
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AbstractObserving populations at different spatial scales gives greater insight into the specific processes driving genetic differentiation and population structure. Here we determined population connectivity across multiple spatial scales in the Red Sea to determine the population structures of two reef building corals Stylophora pistillata and Pocillopora verrucosa. The Red sea is a 2,250 km long body of water with extremely variable latitudinal environmental gradients. Mitochondrial and microsatellite markers were used to determine distinct lineages and to look for genetic differentiation among sampling sites. No distinctive population structure across the latitudinal gradient was discovered within this study suggesting a phenotypic plasticity of both these species to various environments. Stylophora pistillata displayed a heterogeneous distribution of three distinct genetic populations on both a fine and large scale. Fst, Gst, and Dest were all significant (p-value<0.05) and showed moderate genetic differentiation between all sampling sites. However this seems to be byproduct of the heterogeneous distribution, as no distinct genetic population breaks were found. Stylophora pistillata showed greater population structure on a fine scale suggesting genetic selection based on fine scale environmental variations. However, further environmental and oceanographic data is needed to make more inferences on this structure at small spatial scales. This study highlights the deficits of knowledge of both the Red Sea and coral plasticity in regards to local environmental conditions.