, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 501-512

Phylogeography and the conservation of coral reef fishes

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Abstract

Here we present a review of how the study of the geographic distribution of genetic lineages (phylogeography) has helped identify management units, evolutionary significant units, cryptic species, and areas of endemism, and how this information can help efforts to achieve effective conservation of coral reefs. These studies have confirmed the major biogeographic barriers that were originally identified by tropical species distributions. Ancient separations, identified primarily with mtDNA sequence comparisons, became apparent between populations on each side of the barriers. The general lack of correlation between pelagic larval duration and genetic connectivity across barriers indicates that life history and ecology can be as influential as oceanography and geography in shaping evolutionary partitions within ocean basins. Hence, conservation strategies require a recognition of ecological hotspots, those areas where habitat heterogeneity promotes speciation, in addition to more traditional approaches based on biogeography. Finally, the emerging field of genomics will add a new dimension to phylogeography, allowing the study of genes that are pertinent to recent and ongoing differentiation, and ultimately providing higher resolution to detect evolutionary significant units that have diverged in an ecological time scale.

Communicated by Biology Editor M. van Oppen.