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Connectivity of Caribbean coral populations: complementary insights from empirical and modelled gene flow

Authors

  • NICOLA L. FOSTER,

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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    • Present address: School of Marine Science and Engineering, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

  • CLAIRE B. PARIS,

    1. Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
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  • JOHNATHAN T. KOOL,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia
    2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB3, TMC, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia
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  • ILIANA B. BAUMS,

    1. Department of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University, 208 Mueller Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802, USA
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  • JAMIE R. STEVENS,

    1. Molecular Ecology and Evolution Group, School of Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4QD, UK
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  • JUAN A. SANCHEZ,

    1. Laboratorio de Biologia Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Departamento Ciencias Biologicas, Universidad de los Andes, Carrera 1E No 18A – 10, PO Box 4976, Bogota, Colombia
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  • CAROLINA BASTIDAS,

    1. Departamento de Biología de Organismos, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas 1080-A, Venezuela
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  • CLAUDIA AGUDELO,

    1. Laboratorio de Biologia Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Departamento Ciencias Biologicas, Universidad de los Andes, Carrera 1E No 18A – 10, PO Box 4976, Bogota, Colombia
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  • PHILLIPPE BUSH,

    1. Marine Conservation Board, Cayman Islands Government, PO Box 486GT (KY1-1106), Cayman Islands
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  • OWEN DAY,

    1. Buccoo Reef Trust, Cowie’s Building, Carnbee Junction, Auchenskoech Road, Carnbe, Tobago, West Indies
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  • RENATA FERRARI,

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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    • Present address: School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia

  • PATRICIA GONZALEZ,

    1. Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, Calle 16 No. 114 entre 3ra y 1ra, Playa, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba
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  • SHANNON GORE,

    1. Conservation & Fisheries Department, Ministry of Natural Resources & Labour, PO Box 332, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
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  • REIA GUPPY,

    1. Advanced Centre for Coastal and Oceanic Research and Development, Chaguaramas Campus, University of Trinidad and Tobago, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
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  • MICHAEL A. McCARTNEY,

    1. Department of Biology and Marine Biology, Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, 5600 Marvin Moss Lane, Wilmington, NC 28409, USA
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  • CROY McCOY,

    1. Marine Conservation Board, Cayman Islands Government, PO Box 486GT (KY1-1106), Cayman Islands
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  • JUDITH MENDES,

    1. Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica, West Indies
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  • ASHWANTH SRINIVASAN,

    1. Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
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  • SASCHA STEINER,

    1. Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology, ITME Inc., PO Box 944, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies
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  • MARK J. A. VERMEIJ,

    1. Carmabi Foundation, PO Box 2090, Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
    2. Aquatic Microbiology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • ERNESTO WEIL,

    1. Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 3208, Lajas, PR 00667, USA
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  • PETER J. MUMBY

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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    • Present address: School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia


Peter J. Mumby, Fax: +61 7 3365 1655; E-mail: p.j.mumby@uq.edu.au

Abstract

Understanding patterns of connectivity among populations of marine organisms is essential for the development of realistic, spatially explicit models of population dynamics. Two approaches, empirical genetic patterns and oceanographic dispersal modelling, have been used to estimate levels of evolutionary connectivity among marine populations but rarely have their potentially complementary insights been combined. Here, a spatially realistic Lagrangian model of larval dispersal and a theoretical genetic model are integrated with the most extensive study of gene flow in a Caribbean marine organism. The 871 genets collected from 26 sites spread over the wider Caribbean subsampled 45.8% of the 1900 potential unique genets in the model. At a coarse scale, significant consensus between modelled estimates of genetic structure and empirical genetic data for populations of the reef-building coral Montastraea annularis is observed. However, modelled and empirical data differ in their estimates of connectivity among northern Mesoamerican reefs indicating that processes other than dispersal may dominate here. Further, the geographic location and porosity of the previously described east–west barrier to gene flow in the Caribbean is refined. A multi-prong approach, integrating genetic data and spatially realistic models of larval dispersal and genetic projection, provides complementary insights into the processes underpinning population connectivity in marine invertebrates on evolutionary timescales.

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