Novel polymorphic microsatellite markers for population genetics of the endangered Caribbean star coral, Montastraea faveolata
Montastraea faveolata is a reef-building Caribbean coral that is currently listed as endangered across its range. A better understanding of the population genetic structure, genetic diversity and connectivity is needed to make sound conservation plans for this species. Here, we describe nine novel polymorphic microsatellite loci mined from currently available sequence data. Loci were screened in two widely separated populations (n = 21 individuals per population) from the Flower Garden Banks (northern Gulf of Mexico) and Curaçao (Netherland Antilles, southern Caribbean). Allelic diversity ranged from 3 to 16 and observed heterozygosities ranged from 0.095 to 0.905. For all loci but one, the Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium hypothesis was not rejected within each population. These loci failed to amplify symbiont DNA isolated from pure Symbiodinium cultures, confirming their coral-specific origin. We also describe a multiplexing protocol for these markers reducing the costs and time required for future genetic studies. Finally, all markers were tested in the two sister species, M. franksi and M. annularis, and successful amplification and polymorphism were confirmed. The marker panel reported here, in combination with previously published markers for the same species complex, will facilitate coral reef connectivity research for this ecologically important genus, Montastraea, across the Caribbean.