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Keywords:

  • Astroides calycularis;
  • genetic connectivity;
  • genetic structure;
  • microsatellites;
  • Scleractinia;
  • threatened species

Abstract

Understanding dispersal patterns, population structure and connectivity among populations is helpful in the management and conservation of threatened species. Molecular markers are useful tools as indirect estimators of these characteristics. In this study, we assess the population genetic structure of the orange coral Astroides calycularis in the Alboran Sea at local and regional scale, and at three localities outside of this basin. Bayesian clustering methods, traditional F-statistics and Dest statistics were used to determine the patterns of genetic structure. Likelihood and coalescence approaches were used to infer migration patterns and effective population sizes. The results obtained reveal a high level of connectivity among localities separated by as much as 1 km and moderate levels of genetic differentiation among more distant localities, somewhat corresponding with a stepping-stone model of gene flow and connectivity. These data suggest that connectivity among populations of this coral is mainly driven by the biology of the species, with low dispersal abilities; in addition, hydrodynamic processes, oceanographic fronts and the distribution of rocky substrate along the coastline may influence larval dispersal.