Genetic traces of recent long-distance dispersal in a predominantly self-recruiting coral

PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003401. Epub 2008 Oct 14.


Background: Understanding of the magnitude and direction of the exchange of individuals among geographically separated subpopulations that comprise a metapopulation (connectivity) can lead to an improved ability to forecast how fast coral reef organisms are likely to recover from disturbance events that cause extensive mortality. Reef corals that brood their larvae internally and release mature larvae are believed to show little exchange of larvae over ecological times scales and are therefore expected to recover extremely slowly from large-scale perturbations.

Methodology/principal findings: Using analysis of ten DNA microsatellite loci, we show that although Great Barrier Reef (GBR) populations of the brooding coral, Seriatopora hystrix, are mostly self-seeded and some populations are highly isolated, a considerable amount of sexual larvae (up to approximately 4%) has been exchanged among several reefs 10 s to 100 s km apart over the past few generations. Our results further indicate that S. hystrix is capable of producing asexual propagules with similar long-distance dispersal abilities (approximately 1.4% of the sampled colonies had a multilocus genotype that also occurred at another sampling location), which may aid in recovery from environmental disturbances.

Conclusions/significance: Patterns of connectivity in this and probably other GBR corals are complex and need to be resolved in greater detail through genetic characterisation of different cohorts and linkage of genetic data with fine-scale hydrodynamic models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / genetics*
  • Ecosystem
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Geography
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Reproduction