Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 4, pp 659–670 | Cite as

Extreme genetic diversity and temporal rather than spatial partitioning in a widely distributed coral reef fish

  • O. Selma KlantenEmail author
  • J. Howard Choat
  • Lynne van Herwerden
Research Article


Mitochondrial control region (HVR-1) sequences were used to identify patterns of genetic structure and diversity in Naso vlamingii, a widespread coral reef fish with a long evolutionary history. We examined 113 individuals from eight locations across the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Our aims were to determine the spatial scale at which population partitioning occurred and then to evaluate the extent to which either vicariance and/or dispersal events have shaped the population structure of N. vlamingii. The analysis produced several unexpected findings. Firstly, the genetic structure of this species was temporal rather than spatial. Secondly, there was no evidence of a barrier to dispersal throughout the vast distribution range. Apparently larvae of this species traverse vicariance barriers that inhibit inter-oceanic migration of other widespread reef fish taxa. Thirdly, an unusual life history and long evolutionary history was associated with a population structure that was unique amongst coral reef fishes in terms of the magnitude and pattern of genetic diversity (haplotype diversity, = 1.0 and nucleotide diversity π = 13.6%). In addition to these unique characteristics, there was no evidence of isolation by distance (= 0.458, R 2 = 0.210, = 0.078) as has also been shown for some other widespread reef species. However, some reductions in gene flow were observed among and within Ocean basins [Indian–Pacific analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), Φ st = 0.0766, < 0.05; West Indian–East Indian–Pacific AMOVA Φ st = 0.079, < 0.05]. These findings are contrasted with recent studies of coral reef fishes that imply a greater degree of spatial structuring in coral reef fish populations than would be expected from the dispersive nature of their life cycles. We conclude that increased taxon sampling of coral reef fishes for phylogeographic analysis will provide an extended view of the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping coral reef fish diversity at both ends of the life history spectrum.


Coral Reef Reef Fish Minimum Span Tree Coral Reef Fish Mismatch Distribution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This manuscript was improved by comments from three anonymous reviewers. The authors acknowledge funding and logistic support from The National Geographic Society, The Queensland Government/Smithsonian Institution Collaborative Research Program on Reef Fishes, The Seychelles Fishing Authority, Cocos Keeling and Christmas Island National Parks Department of Environment and Heritage Australia, The Australian Institute of Marine Science, The Lizard Island Research Station and the James Cook University internal funding scheme. Specimens were provided by A. Maypa and A. Alcala (Silliman University Angelo King Centre for Research and Environmental Management, Philippines), M. Meekan (Australian Institute of Marine Sciences), R. Robertson (STRI), J. Ackerman, W. Robbins, M. Srinivasan and G.P. Jones (JCU). This project benefited from discussions with S. Planes, R. Robertson, B. Bowen and G. Russ. The work was carried out under James Cook University Ethics Approval No. A503.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • O. Selma Klanten
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Howard Choat
    • 1
  • Lynne van Herwerden
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, Molecular Ecology and Evolution LaboratoryJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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