Marine Biology

, Volume 110, Issue 3, pp 353-357

First online:

Temporal genetic variation in subpopulations of bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus) inhabiting coral reefs in the Florida Keys

  • J. M. LacsonAffiliated withUniversity of Guam Marine Laboratory
  • , D. C. MorizotAffiliated withScience Park Research Division, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

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In 1986 we observed significant genetic heterogeneity among samples of bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus) from geographically proximate coral reefs in the Florida Keys. This result was in contrast to results of virtually all previous studies of coral reef fishes. To assess temporal stability of localized genetic differentiation, we resampled reefs in 1989. Within approximately two generations, allele frequencies at the most differentiated locus,ACO-1 *, had changed by as much as 0.65, resulting in almost complete homogeneity between previously differentiated subpopulations. Estimates of 10.78 migrants per generation suggested that high gene flow is the most likely factor responsible for the significant change in allele frequencies. We attribute the original genetic differentiation to a population bottleneck, possibly caused by environmental perturbations such as hurricanes and consequent genetic drift. For reef fishes with pelagic egg and/or larval stages, a growing body of data suggests that: (1) populations are geographically extensive gene pools, and (2) rates of dispersal appear to be high enough to allow for continual repopulation of isolated and/or perturbed coral reef communities.