Genetic diversity of isolated populations of Nautilus pompilius (Mollusca, Cephalopoda) in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea
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Nautilus species are the only remaining cephalopods with an external shell. Targeted heavily by the shell trade across their distribution area, these species have a poorly known population structure and genetics. Molecular techniques have been used to assess levels of inter- and intra-population genetic diversity in isolated populations of Nautilus in the northern sections of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia and in the Coral Sea. Distinct populations, physically separated by depths in excess of 1,000 m were examined. RAPD analysis of genetic differences showed limited differentiation of the “Northern GBR” populations and the “Coral Sea” populations. Discrimination between the two geographic groups was observed from these data. In addition, partial sequencing of the CoxI gene region, yielded 575 bp of sequence, which was aligned for 43 samples and phylogenetic trees constructed to examine genetic relationships. Two distinct clades were resolved in the resulting trees, representing the “Northern GBR” and “Coral Sea” population groups. Inter- and intra-population relationships are presented and discussed. The differentiation of the Nautilus populations from the Northern section of the Great Barrier Reef and those from the Coral Sea were supported by two distinctly different methodologies and the significance of this separation and the potential evolutionary divergence of these two population groups is discussed.