Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 1135–1148 | Cite as

Fine-scale spatial genetic structure and clonal distribution of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa

  • M. P. DahlEmail author
  • R. T. Pereyra
  • T. Lundälv
  • C. André


Determining the spatial genetic structure within and among cold-water coral populations is crucial to understanding population dynamics, assessing the resilience of cold-water coral communities and estimating genetic effects of habitat fragmentation for conservation. The spatial distribution of genetic diversity in natural populations depends on the species’ mode of reproduction, and coral species often have a mixed strategy of sexual and asexual reproduction. We describe the clonal architecture of a cold-water coral reef and the fine-scale population genetic structure (<35 km) of five reef localities in the NE Skagerrak. This study represents the first of this type of analysis from deep waters. We used thirteen microsatellite loci to estimate gene flow and genotypic diversity and to describe the fine-scale spatial distribution of clonal individuals of Lophelia pertusa. Within-population genetic diversity was high in four of the five reef localities. These four reefs constitute a genetic cluster with asymmetric gene flow that indicates metapopulation dynamics. One locality, the Säcken reef, was genetically isolated and depauperate. Asexual reproduction was found to be a highly important mode of reproduction for L. pertusa: 35 genetic individuals were found on the largest reef, with the largest clone covering an area of nearly 300 m2.


Cold-water coral Clonality Spatial genetic structure Genotypic diversity Connectivity Conservation genetics 



We thank Lisbeth Jonsson and Armin Form for assistance in collecting samples and Sophie Arnaud-Haond for valuable advice and comments on an earlier version. Funding was provided by grants from Oscar and Lili Lamm, Helge Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse, Wilhelm och Martina Lundgrens Vetenskaps- och Understödsfond and Colliander. We would also like to acknowledge the help of three anonymous reviewers whose suggestions helped to improve the manuscript considerably. Funding for sampling was supported by the two European projects: HERMES EC contract no GOCE-CT-2005-511234, funded by the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme under the priority ‘Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems’ and the HERMIONE project, EC contract no 226354, funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme under the theme Environment (including climate change).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. P. Dahl
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. T. Pereyra
    • 1
  • T. Lundälv
    • 2
  • C. André
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine Ecology-TjärnöUniversity of GothenburgStrömstadSweden
  2. 2.Sven Lovén Centre of Marine Sciences-TjärnöUniversity of GothenburgStrömstadSweden

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