Coral Reefs

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 437–450 | Cite as

Cryptic species of cardinalfish with evidence for old and new divergence

  • Gabriele Gerlach
  • Jelle Atema
  • Michael J. Raupach
  • Fabian Deister
  • Anke Müller
  • Michael J. Kingsford


Larval dispersal and limited knowledge of physical boundaries challenge our understanding of the processes that drive genetic divergence and potential speciation in the marine environment. Divergence, both within and between populations of marine taxa, is not uncommon, but spatial and temporal stability of observed genetic structure is not well known. Previously, we detected large genetic differences among populations of the cardinalfish species Ostorhinchus doederleini inhabiting adjacent coral reefs. Here, we determined the spatial and temporal persistence of these genetic structures over the course of ten consecutive generations. Using microsatellite markers, we detected large changes (genetic population distance, D est, ranged from 0.04 to 0.46) in the genetic structure in some years, but some reefs maintained the same populations for nearly all sampling years. As this species’ life span does not exceed 1 yr, persistence of distinct reef populations suggests natal homing. Mitochondrial identity based on two mtDNA markers corroborates the nuclear genetic evidence for genetic differences large enough to constitute different clades and even cryptic species in O. doederleini, which, based on gross morphology, was thought to be a single taxon. Habitat specialization was observed in one clade that exclusively inhabited reef lagoons, while all clades could be observed on reef slopes. We suggest that local habitat recognition combined with local population recognition and selection against hybrids can form barriers that maintain a cryptic species complex.


Biodiversity Cryptic species Genetic patchiness Marine dispersal Speciation Temporal stability 



We thank Mark O’Callaghan, Andreas Bally, Vanessa Miller-Sims, David Welsh, Naomi Gardiner and Felicity Smith for assistance with sample collection, and Susanne Wallenstein and students from the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA, for helping to process samples. Photograph of O. doederleini (Fig. 5b) was taken by Andreas Bally. Thanks to Sebastian Schmidt Roach for helpful comments on the manuscript; Gabrielle Miller for improving the language style. This work was funded by National Science Foundation Grant OCE-0452885, the German Science Foundation (Ge 842/6-1) to G.G. and OCE-0452988 to J.A., National Geographic Society Grant 7236-02, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies grant (to M.J.K.).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 757 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriele Gerlach
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jelle Atema
    • 2
  • Michael J. Raupach
    • 3
  • Fabian Deister
    • 1
  • Anke Müller
    • 1
  • Michael J. Kingsford
    • 4
  1. 1.Carl von Ossietzky University OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.Boston University Marine ProgramBostonUSA
  3. 3.Senckenberg am Meer, German Center of Marine Biodiversity ResearchWilhelmshavenGermany
  4. 4.Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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