Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 27–47

Local habitat distribution determines the relative frequency and interbreeding potential for two Caribbean coral morphospecies

  • Mark J. A. Vermeij
  • Stuart A. Sandin
  • Jameal F. Samhouri
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10682-006-9122-z

Cite this article as:
Vermeij, M.J.A., Sandin, S.A. & Samhouri, J.F. Evol Ecol (2007) 21: 27. doi:10.1007/s10682-006-9122-z


We investigate the relationship between habitat heterogeneity and morphological variation in the Caribbean coral species-complex, Madracis pharensis/decactis. This complex showed strong but incomplete morphospecies habitat-matching on a small spatial scale. We find that only one Madracis morphospecies dominates in environments consisting of either few vertical or few horizontal habitats, whereas in environments consisting of a mixture of horizontal and vertical habitats both morphospecies are common. We demonstrate that the observed patterns of morphospecies habitat-matching cannot be explained by a pure polyphenic model, where morphological variants are induced by a genotype-by-environment interaction at their settling site. Instead, we suggest that habitat-matching results in whole or in part from genetically predetermined factors. We present support for the hypothesis that this pattern of habitat-matching is due to habitat- and morphospecies-specific selective factors. Our study describes how a variable environmental factor, i.e. habitat distribution, has a non-linear effect on the spatial distribution of these morphospecies, thereby influencing the genetic organization of the Madracis coral complex at the ~+1–10 km spatial scale.


PolymorphismPolyphenismCoralHabitat heterogeneity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark J. A. Vermeij
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stuart A. Sandin
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jameal F. Samhouri
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.CARMABIWillemstad, CuracaoNetherlands Antilles
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  4. 4.Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA