Genetic structure of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci ) on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: comparison of two sets of outbreak populations occurring ten years apart
- Cite this article as:
- Benzie, J. & Wakeford, M. Marine Biology (1997) 129: 149. doi:10.1007/s002270050155
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Six populations of the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, showing large increases in population size in 1994 to 1995, were examined by allozyme electrophoresis of 100 to 300 individuals collected from each population in November 1995 to February 1996. Analysis of nine loci, used to determine the structure of outbreak populations in the early-mid-1980s, demonstrated no significant differentiation among the 1996 outbreak populations in any age class (2 to 6 yr old). No significant variation was detected between age classes in any of the six populations. These data are consistent with the recent outbreak populations having been derived from one genetic source, and suggest no change in the source of recruits to these reefs between 1989/1990 to 1994/1995. In a multi-dimensional scaling analysis, the 1996 samples clustered with the eight 1986 outbreak populations in a small part of the genetic space spanned by the 1986 non-outbreak populations, suggesting that the outbreak populations were derived from the same genetic source in both 1986 and 1996. Statistically significant, but small, differences in gene frequencies detected between the 1986 and 1996 outbreak populations are thought to result from genetic drift, but are unlikely to provide a means of distinguishing sets of outbreak populations because of the large sample sizes required to detect the small shifts in gene frequency.