, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 317-325

DNA fingerprints of a gorgonian coral: a method for detecting clonal structure in a vegetative species

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Clonal reproduction, a common life history strategy among sessile marine invertebrates, can lead to high local abundances of one to a few genotypes in a population. Analysis of the clonal structure of such populations can provide insight into the ecological and evolutionary history of the population, but requires markers that can identify individual genets. Forensic and demographic studies have demonstrated that DNA fingerprinting can provide markers that are unique for an individual genotype. We have generated DNA fingerprints for over 70 colonies of the clonal gorgonian, Plexaura A (Plexaura sp. A) collected from June 1990 through July 1991 in the San Blas Islands, Panama. DNA fingerprints within a singic individual were identical and fingerprinting resolved multiple genotypes within and among reefs. On one reef in the San Blas Islands, Panama, 59% of the colonies sampled were of one genotype and this genotype was not found on any other sampled reefs. A previous study using tissue grafts identified 13 putative clones on these reefs, while DNA fingerprints of the same colonies differentiated 17 genotypes. The present study demonstrates the utility of DNA fingerprinting for distinguishing clones and for identifying clonal structure of marine invertebrate populations.

Communicated by J. Grassle, New Brunswick