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Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 991–1003 | Cite as

Low connectivity and declining genetic variability along a depth gradient in Corallium rubrum populations

  • F. CostantiniEmail author
  • S. Rossi
  • E. Pintus
  • C. Cerrano
  • J.-M. Gili
  • M. Abbiati
Report

Abstract

This study examines the possible effect of depth on the connectivity and genetic variability in red coral (Corallium rubrum; Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) populations. Patterns of genetic structuring along a depth gradient (from 20 to 70 m) were investigated in two locations of the western Mediterranean coast (northern Catalan and eastern Ligurian Seas) using 10 microsatellite loci. Strong patterns of genetic structuring among the samples were found both within and between the two study sites. In both locations, consistent patterns of reduction in genetic variability along the depth gradient were also observed, suggesting that depth has an important role in determining the patterns of genetic structure in Corallium rubrum. Moreover, a threshold in connectivity was observed among the samples collected across 40–50 m depth, supporting the hypothesis that discrete shallow- and deep-water red coral populations occur. This finding has major implications for management strategies and the conservation of commercially exploited deep red coral populations.

Keywords

Corallium rubrum Depth cline Microsatellites Genetic structuring Conservation Mediterranean Sea 

Notes

Acknowledgments

FC was supported by Postdoctoral Fellowship of the University of Bologna and by Francesca and Luigi Brusarosco grant. SR was financed with a Ramón y Cajal Contract (RyC-2007-01327). Thanks to Fontana G and Bramanti L for their support during the different stages of this study. Thanks to García T and Gori A for collecting samples in Cap de Creus. ‘Portofino Divers’ help during the deep sampling in Portofino. The comments made by the Topic Editor Dr. Gates and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Costantini
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. Rossi
    • 2
  • E. Pintus
    • 1
  • C. Cerrano
    • 3
  • J.-M. Gili
    • 4
  • M. Abbiati
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali and Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica SperimentaleUniversity of BolognaRavennaItaly
  2. 2.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UABCerdanyola del VallésSpain
  3. 3.Dipartimento per lo Studio del Territorio e delle sue Risorse, Corso Europa 26Università di GenovaGenovaItaly
  4. 4.Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)BarcelonaSpain

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