Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 1, pp 81–98 | Cite as

Population structure of the corals Orbicella faveolata and Acropora palmata in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System with comparisons over Caribbean basin-wide spatial scale

  • I. Porto-HannesEmail author
  • A. L. Zubillaga
  • T. L. Shearer
  • C. Bastidas
  • C. Salazar
  • M. A. Coffroth
  • A. M. Szmant
Original Paper


Studies of genetic diversity and population genetic structure in marine organisms are relevant to understanding populations’ variability, and therefore their ability to withstand environmental perturbations, their potential for resistance to local extinction and their natural rate of recovery. Population structure and genetic diversity were assessed at a regional spatial scale (i.e., Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, MBRS) in two major reef building coral species Orbicella (formerly Montastraea) faveolata and Acropora palmata, and at a larger spatial scale (i.e., Caribbean-wide; MBRS, Panama, Venezuela and Puerto Rico) for A. palmata only. The most significant findings were as follows: (1) high genetic diversity and low clonality were found for both species, which is expected for O. faveolata but not for A. palmata, (2) both species showed low-to-moderate, yet significant population structure among populations along the MBRS; in particular, O. faveolata and A. palmata from Ambergris (Belize) and O. faveolata from Calabash (Belize) and A. palmata from Puerto Morelos (Mexico) showed some genetic differentiation from the rest of the MBRS populations, and (3) A. palmata from MBRS, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela were grouped into four subregions that could be considered as management units. A more spatially detailed sampling program and the inclusion of recruits will be necessary to get a comprehensive understanding of coral population structure and current gene flow patterns in these two species.


Venezuela Population Genetic Structure Allelic Richness Coral Species Coral Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to P. Sale for his significant support, T. Snell at Georgia Institute of Technology, E. Weil at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and the Biology Department at Universidad de los Andes for the access to their laboratories. We thank J. Azueta (Belize Fisheries Department) for permission to collect coral samples, and E. García (University of Belize) and J. Gibson (Wildlife Conservation Society) for field assistance in Belize. Permission to collect coral samples and field assistance in Mexico was provided by C. Gutiérrez, M. C. García (CONANP), M. I. Millet (PNAC), D. G. Muñoz (PNAPM), R. M. Loretto (PNAPM). We are grateful for field assistance by J. Craig, the staff and crews of the Mexico and Belize Marine Parks, E. Irrizary in Puerto Rico, H. Guzmán and A. Cróquer in Panama and A. Humanes, M. Caputo, M. Barbosa, and J. Dávila in Venezuela. Lastly, we thank, I. Baums, C. Riginos, an anonymous reviewer and R. Foster for carefully reading our manuscript and for giving detailed comments that were helpful in improving the manuscript. Los Roques sampling was funded by Decanato de Estudios de Postgrado, Universidad Simón Bolívar, and Misión Ciencia (Ministerio del Poder Popular para el Ambiente). This research was funded by the World Bank-GEF Coral Reef Targeted Research program and NSF OCE-0424996 (MAC).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Porto-Hannes
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. L. Zubillaga
    • 2
  • T. L. Shearer
    • 3
  • C. Bastidas
    • 2
  • C. Salazar
    • 4
  • M. A. Coffroth
    • 1
    • 5
  • A. M. Szmant
    • 6
  1. 1.Graduate Program in Evolution, Ecology and BehaviorState University of New York at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Departamento de Biología de OrganismosUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracasVenezuela
  3. 3.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Programa de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y MatemáticasUniversidad del RosarioBogotáColombia
  5. 5.Department of GeologyState University of New York at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  6. 6.Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA

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