, Volume 157, Issue 5, pp 945-953

Genetic structure across the GBR: evidence from short-lived gobies

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The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) exhibits distinct cross-shelf zonation. These patterns are particularly well documented in reef fishes and have been attributed to either environmental gradients (e.g. wave energy, oceanography) or barriers to gene flow. This study examined the extent to which barriers to gene flow contribute to cross-shelf patterns by examining the mitochondrial DNA of gobies (genus Eviota). The genus Eviota was selected due to its extreme life history characteristics (shortest vertebrate lifespan) and cross-shelf distribution patterns (E. queenslandica, inner- and mid-shelf, and E. albolineata mid- and outer-shelf). Although cross-shelf barriers to gene flow were predicted, this study found no population structure between shelf locations. However, a genetically distinct population of E. queenslandica (the inner-shelf species) was observed at North Direction Island (Phist = 0.088, P = 0.004). As no comparable structure was observed in E. albolineata (the outer-shelf species) it may be that habitat type (E. queenslandica = reef lagoon, E. albolineata = reef crest) is a significant factor driving the structure observed in E. queenslandica. Larval behaviour, olfactory or auditory senses and reef selection at settlement could be assisting larvae to return to reefs similar to natal reefs. We suggest that ecological gradients are more important than barriers to gene flow in structuring cross-shelf distributions within Eviota.

Communicated by T. Reusch.