Hybridization is recognized as an important source of genetic variation. In some reef fishes, including the Acanthuridae, hybridization has been detected due to intermediate colouration. This study used a molecular genetic approach to investigate hybridization in two Acanthurid species: Acanthurus leucosternon and Acanthurus nigricans, which have Indian and Pacific Ocean distributions respectively and are sympatric in the eastern Indian Ocean. In this area a putatitve hybrid, Acanthurus cf. leucosternon has been recognized based on intermediate colouration and restriction to the sympatric region of otherwise allopatric putative parental species. This study aimed to test this hypothesis using genetic tools. The three species were sampled from Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands, the biogeographic boundary where many Indian and Pacific Ocean biota meet. Representatives from allopatric populations of both parental species and outgroups were also sampled. Mitochondrial COI and intron 1 of the nuclear ribosomal protein S7 were sequenced from 13 and 30 specimens respectively. Although sample sizes in this study are relatively small and more genetic data, including an extended phylogeographic sampling, is required to further evaluate these findings, the COI results support hybrid origins of Acanthurus cf. leucosternon, but S7 data are inconclusive due to the possibility of incomplete lineage sorting. The fourfold more abundant Acanthurus nigricans is most often the maternal parent. Inter-fertile hybrids apparently backcross with rare Acanthurus leucosternon males, transferring Acanthurus nigricans mitochondria to this species. These results suggest that Acanthurus leucosternon may eventually be lost from these islands, due to their relative rarity and introgressive hybridization.
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Our thanks to: Justin Gilligan, Jay Hender and Dr Robertson, who provided field assistance and helped in collecting the specimens. Thanks also to Parks Australia Christmas Island, John Clunies-Ross and Geof Christie for providing valuable logistical support. We also thank Selma Klanten for guidance in the laboratory and COI sequences for the outgroups. Thanks are further due to Claire Farnsworth and Kate Winters for assistance with labwork. This work was funded by James Cook University funds awarded to JH Choat, GP Jones, P Munday and D Jerry.
Communicated by Biology Editor M. van Oppen.
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Marie, A.D., van Herwerden, L., Choat, J.H. et al. Hybridization of reef fishes at the Indo-Pacific biogeographic barrier: a case study. Coral Reefs 26, 841–850 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-007-0273-3
- COI and S7 intron 1
- Mating behaviour