Marine Biology

, 163:216 | Cite as

Regional genetic structure and genetic founder effects in the invasive lionfish: comparing the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and North Atlantic

  • John Johnson
  • Christopher E. Bird
  • Michelle A. Johnston
  • Alexander Q. Fogg
  • J. Derek Hogan
Invasive Species - Original paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Invasive Species


Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) recently invaded Western Atlantic waters, rapidly spreading through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Previous genetic analyses using the mitochondrial d-loop determined that populations in the Western North Atlantic (NA) region have up to nine haplotypes, whereas Caribbean populations contain four of the North Atlantic haplotypes. The genetic composition of GoM populations, reported here for the first time, could lend insight into the pathway of dispersal into the GoM and better understanding of the biogeography of this recent invader. Here, we determined the genetic composition of lionfish throughout the GoM and compared haplotype composition to Caribbean and North Atlantic regions. We found that GoM samples contained only three d-loop haplotypes that are common in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. The genetic structure differed significantly among the three regions (AMOVA:Φ CT = 0.062; p = 0.001), but we found no differences between locations within regions (AMOVA:Φ SC = 0.005; p = 0.092). The composition of GoM samples most closely matches the composition of Caribbean samples indicating that Caribbean populations are the likely source of the GoM populations. As each region was successively invaded, a drop in haplotype diversity and changes in haplotype frequencies occurred indicating dispersal limitation across basin boundaries and founder effects within each basin. The lack of differentiation within regions indicates rapid population growth and unfettered dispersal within basins after initial colonization. We find no evidence of secondary invasions within samples. With well-established populations, the probability of detecting a secondary invasion is minuscule.


North Atlantic Region Gene Flow Restriction Genetic Discontinuity Caribbean Population Blacktip Shark 
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.



We thank the FGBNMS staff for help with collections and samples from the FGBNMS, and G. Palmer, A. Downey-Wall and J. Selwyn for collections and samples from Panama.


This study was funded by start up funds provided to JDH by Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. (IACUC protocol #05-14).

Supplementary material

227_2016_2981_MOESM1_ESM.docx (40 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 40 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Johnson
    • 1
  • Christopher E. Bird
    • 1
  • Michelle A. Johnston
    • 2
  • Alexander Q. Fogg
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. Derek Hogan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.Flower Garden Banks National Marine SanctuaryGalvestonUSA
  3. 3.Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Department of Coastal SciencesUniversity of Southern MississippiOcean SpringsUSA
  4. 4.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionTallahasseeUSA

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