Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 493–502

Genetic structure of a reef-building coral from thermally distinct environments on the Great Barrier Reef


DOI: 10.1007/s00338-006-0129-2

Cite this article as:
Smith-Keune, C. & van Oppen, M. Coral Reefs (2006) 25: 493. doi:10.1007/s00338-006-0129-2


Adaptation to localised thermal regimes is facilitated by restricted gene flow, ultimately leading to genetic divergence among populations and differences in their physiological tolerances. Allozyme analysis of six polymorphic loci was used to assess genetic differentiation between nine populations of the reef-building coral Acropora millepora over a latitudinal temperature gradient on the inshore regions of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Small but significant genetic differentiation indicative of moderate levels of gene flow (pairwise FST 0.023 to 0.077) was found between southern populations of A. millepora in cooler regions of the GBR and the warmer, central or northern GBR populations. Patterns of genetic differentiation at these putatively neutral allozyme loci broadly matched experimental variation in thermal tolerance and were consistent with local thermal regimes (warmest monthly-averages) for the A. millepora populations examined. It is therefore hypothesized that natural selection has influenced the thermal tolerance of the A. millepora populations examined and greater genetic divergence is likely to be revealed by examination of genetic markers under the direct effects of natural selection.


Genetic structureCoral bleachingThermal toleranceGreat Barrier Reef

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsville MCAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Marine StudiesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia