Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 677–686 | Cite as

Limited genetic connectivity of Pavona gigantea in the Mexican Pacific

  • N. C. Saavedra-Sotelo
  • L. E. Calderon-Aguilera
  • H. Reyes-Bonilla
  • R. A. López-Pérez
  • P. Medina-Rosas
  • A. Rocha-Olivares


Coral reefs are the most complex and diverse of aquatic ecosystems. Their vulnerability and deterioration in the face of anthropogenic disturbance require the adoption of conservation and restoration efforts to maintain their resilience, for which connectivity is of paramount importance. Dispersal of meroplanktonic larval stages drives the levels of connectivity among coral populations and is influenced by the local current regime, the synchronization of spawning events, and the capacity of larvae to reach recruitment sites. This research aims to quantify the levels of connectivity among Pavona gigantea populations in the Mexican Pacific, using two mitochondrial genes and a nuclear gene. Mitochondrial genes were insufficiently variable to test geographical heterogeneity, whereas the more variable (h ≥ 0.86) nuclear rDNA indicated significant geographic differentiation (Φ ST  = 0.159, P < 0.001) among five locations along the Mexican Pacific, but no evidence of isolation by distance. Gene flow was limited among most sampled locales, and the largest estimate suggested moderate and unidirectional gene flow from Huatulco Bays to La Paz Bay and Marietas Islands. We found partial agreement between the patterns of connectivity among localities and the general pattern of superficial oceanographic circulation of the region, particularly in reference with the expected influence of the northward flowing West Mexican Current. These results suggest a limited demographic connectivity among Pavona gigantea populations along the Mexican Pacific, mediated by passive larval transport, and highlight the difficulty of predicting connectivity patterns on the basis of highly variable oceanographic regimes and reproductive events. The limited connectivity is of consequence for the viability and vulnerability of local populations and should be considered in the management and conservation strategies in the region.


Population connectivity Genetic structure Gene flow Passive larval transport Mexican Pacific Hydrography 



We gratefully acknowledge the teams of collaborators along of the Mexican Pacific for assistance in sample collection (UABCS, CUC of U de G, and UMar). This work was supported by CICESE internal grant (awarded to ARO), CONACYT grant no. 80228 (awarded to RALP), CONACYT-SEMARNAT no. 23390 (awarded to LECA), and a grant from the “Programa del Mejoramiento del Posgrado-SEP” (awarded to HRB). The first author received a postgraduate fellowship from CONACYT to support her M.Sc. program in Marine Ecology at CICESE. We thank Mike Hellberg for generously providing constructive suggestions that improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. C. Saavedra-Sotelo
    • 1
  • L. E. Calderon-Aguilera
    • 2
  • H. Reyes-Bonilla
    • 3
  • R. A. López-Pérez
    • 4
  • P. Medina-Rosas
    • 5
  • A. Rocha-Olivares
    • 1
  1. 1.Molecular Ecology Laboratory, Biological Oceanography DepartmentCICESEEnsenadaMexico
  2. 2.Fisheries and Coastal Ecology Laboratory, Marine Ecology DepartmentCICESEEnsenadaMexico
  3. 3.Departamento de Biología MarinaUniversidad Autónoma de Baja California SurBaja California SurMexico
  4. 4.Resources InstituteUniversidad del MarPuerto ÁngelMexico
  5. 5.Sciences DepartmentCentro Universitario de la CostaPuerto VallartaMexico

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