, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 29-36

Genetic relatedness of foraminiferan (Marginopora vertebralis) populations from reefs in the Western Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef

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Abstract

Allozyme variation at four loci and phenetic variation for esterase were examined in M. vertebralis populations from 10 reefs from the Western Coral Sea and two from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Genetic distances (Nei's D) among populations on different reefs ranged from 0–0.932 and was neither related to geographical separation of reefs nor to depth of water separating reefs. These findings suggest long-distance dispersal by some means is sufficient to prevent genetic differentiation of M. vertebralis populations, and that M. vertebralis populations need not be connected by habitats suitable for the continued existence of the foraminiferan for genetic differentiation to be prevented. The Western Coral Sea reef populations did not form a related group that were genetically distinct from those on the GBR but were differentiated latitudinally. Reefs to the extreme north and south formed outliers while those on the northern half of the Queensland Plateau showed some differentiation from those on the southern half of the Plateau. This pattern of genetic variation appeared to reflect the distribution of populations north and south of the southern limit of the Southern Equatorial Current. Further work will be required to establish the soundness of this relationship, and to exclude other possible explanations related to historical events or the effects of selection. Relatively high dispersal was inferred between the Southern Queensland Plateau reefs and those sampled on the GBR (average Neis D=0.011). Holmes and Marion reefs formed discrete genetic outliers (average Neis D=0.69 and 0.20 respectively). In the case of Holmes reef other factors (e.g. history of recruitment) will need to be investigated to account for its marked genetic differentiation from the other reefs in the Queensland Plateau.