Are striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) philopatric?


Mugil cephalus generally inhabits coastal areas and migrates to the open sea to reproduce. Based on tagging studies, it has been suggested that this species could present philopatric behavior, which would be reflected in the genetic structure. To test philopatry in M. cephalus, 11 locations in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and three in the Mexican Pacific (MP) were sampled. 151 and 177 specimens were analyzed using mtDNA, COI and control region, respectively. Ten microsatellite loci were examined in a total of 311 individuals. COI results showed that GOM and MP do not share haplotypes. Each littoral represents a distinct genetic group with a genetic distance of 5.4%. However, historical genetic flow was found between these two regions, which could represent a remnant of the connection at the Isthmus of Panama or due to the interconnection of rivers during the Pleistocene on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The GOM presented panmixia (FST = 0.001 COI, 0.023 control region, and 0.039 microsatellites), and the high gene flow between locations (Nm > 139) could lead to the underestimation of the markers of philopatric behavior. The MP also presented panmixia using COI (FST = 0); however, it showed two genetic groups (north and south) using microsatellites in both sexes (FST = 0.176 ♂ and 0.144 ♀). Given the evidence that the Tehuanos winds can produce a barrier between the locations of the MP, particularly during the spawning season, it is possible that genetic structure is the result of this barrier rather than philopatry.

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Many thanks to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, USA, to Mark Fisher (Science Director), Jerry Mambretti (Sabine Lake Ecosystem Leader), Greg Onorato (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife), Norman Boyd (San Antonio Bay Ecosystem Leader) and James Simons (A and M Texas University) who collected the Mugil cephalus samples from Texas. We thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fisheries-Independent Monitoring program for the samples from Florida. The authors are grateful to Elaine Espino (Instituto Nacional de la Pesca), Xavier Chiappa, Maribel Badillo, Fernando Mex and Alfredo Gallardo (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Juan Juárez and Ángel Romero (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), Elaine Espino (Centro Regional de Investigación Pesquera), Pedro Cervantes (Universidad del Mar), Eloísa Pacheco (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana) who helped in the Mexican collections.


This study is part of the fellowship 418966 that was granted to the first author through the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. The study was funded by grants from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa and Secretaría de Educación Pública-Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología under the Ciencia Básica project number: 2011-01-165569.

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Correspondence to Ana L. Ibáñez.

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The work was done following all ethics requirements from the Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación. Striped mullet were collected under the Official Mexican Norm (NOM-016 PESC-1994) for commercial species. In the USA, there is no law for striped mullets capture, however, fish were euthanized humanely by being placed directly into an ice water bath upon capture.

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Colín, A., Hernández-Pérez, Z., Guevara-Chumacero, L.M. et al. Are striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) philopatric?. Mar Biol 167, 10 (2020).

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