Marine Biology

, Volume 145, Issue 6, pp 1075–1083 | Cite as

Genetic differentiation among populations of the Mediterranean hermaphroditic brooding coral Balanophyllia europaea (Scleractinia: Dendrophylliidae)

Research Article


Spatial models of genetic structure and potential gene flow were determined for five populations of Balanophyllia europaea, a simultaneous hermaphroditic and brooding coral, endemic to the Mediterranean. Six allozyme loci indicated a genetic structure that departed markedly from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, with a significant lack of heterozygotes. The genetic structure observed supports the hypothesis that self-fertilisation characterises the reproductive biology of B. europaea. Populations at small spatial scales (8–40 m) are genetically connected, while those at large scales (36–1,941 km) are genetically fragmented; the genetic differentiation of the populations is not correlated to geographic separation. This spatial model of genetic structure is compatible with an inbreeding mating system. Furthermore, it is also consistent with the expected dispersal potential of swimming larvae of brooding corals, i.e. larvae that are able to produce significant gene flows only within limited spatial scales.



We thank the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Scuba Schools International Italia and the Underwater Life Project, our sponsors for this study. We also thank B. Mantovani for her generosity in supplying the research methodology and for her revision of this paper; M. Passamonti for his help in the laboratory and with the statistical analyses; M. Abbiati for his help in electrophoretic techniques; A. Marino for his recommendations on software; our divers E. Manzardo, M. Pasquini and M. Longagnani for their help in sample collection; the Bologna Scuba Team school for its logistical support of the dives; and the Marine Science Group for its scientific and technological contributions. N.E. Chadwick-Furman (Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science at Eilat, Israel), J. Hall-Spencer (University of Glasgow, United Kingdom) and two anonymous reviewers commented on the manuscript. These experiments complied with the current laws of Italy.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental Evolutionary BiologyAlma Mater Studiorum—University of BolognaBolognaItaly

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