, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 769-777

Population genetic analysis of red grouper, Epinephelus morio, and scamp, Mycteroperca phenax, from the southeastern U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

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Abstract

The genetic population structure of red grouper, Epinephelus morio (Valenciennes), and scamp, Mycteroperca phenax Jordan and Swain, from the southeastern U.S. Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico was examined using nuclear microsatellite DNA markers in order to test the null hypothesis of panmixia throughout this range. Physical and biological data indicate that relatively isolated populations of these fish exist. Genetic variation was assessed at four microsatellite loci in red grouper and six loci in scamp. The fish were collected on different dates between 1991 and 2001. The microsatellite loci were highly polymorphic, with an average expected heterozygosity of 0.75 in red grouper and 0.68 in scamp. Heterozygote deficiencies (significant deviations from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, HWE) were found at two of four loci in all red grouper samples except the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and for all red grouper combined. In contrast, all loci conformed to HWE in the separate scamp samples. Minimal genetic differences distinguished southeastern U.S. Atlantic or Mexican red grouper from other localities, and no indication of genetic differentiation was observed in scamp. This large-scale genetic homogeneity may be attributed to ongoing gene flow and/or historical contact between present-day populations. For management purposes, genetic homogeneity does not necessarily imply a single stock. Because larval dispersal may be sufficient to homogenize gene frequencies but not to replenish depleted stocks, other data must be considered in the management of these species.

Communicated by J.P. Grassle, New Brunswick