• Connectivity;
  • diversity patterns

The relationship between genetic diversity and species diversity provides insights into biogeography and historic patterns of evolution and is critical for developing contemporary strategies for biodiversity conservation. Although concordant large-scale clines in genetic and species diversity have been described for terrestrial organisms, whether these parameters co-vary in marine species remains largely unknown. We examined patterns of genetic diversity for 11 coral reef fish species sampled at three locations across the Pacific Ocean species diversity gradient (Australia: ∼1600 species; New Caledonia: ∼1400 species; French Polynesia: ∼800 species). Combined genetic diversity for all 11 species paralleled the decline in species diversity from West to East, with French Polynesia exhibiting lowest total haplotype and nucleotide diversities. Haplotype diversity consistently declined toward French Polynesia in all and nucleotide diversity in the majority of species. The French Polynesian population of most species also exhibited significant genetic differentiation from populations in the West Pacific. A number of factors may have contributed to the general positive correlation between genetic and species diversity, including location and time of species origin, vicariance events, reduced gene flow with increasing isolation, and decreasing habitat area from West to East. However, isolation and habitat area, resulting in reduced population size, are likely to be the most influential.