Trans-Pacific RAD-Seq population genomics confirms introgressive hybridization in Eastern Pacific Pocillopora corals

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2015 Jul;88:154-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2015.03.022. Epub 2015 Apr 4.


Discrepancies between morphology-based taxonomy and phylogenetic systematics are common in Scleractinian corals. In Pocillopora corals, nine recently identified genetic lineages disagree fundamentally with the 17 recognized Pocillopora species, including 5 major Indo-Pacific reef-builders. Pocillopora corals hybridize in the Tropical Eastern Pacific, so it is possible that some of the disagreement between the genetics and taxonomy may be due to introgressive hybridization. Here we used 6769 genome-wide SNPs from Restriction-site Associated DNA Sequencing (RAD-Seq) to conduct phylogenomic comparisons among three common, Indo-Pacific Pocillopora species - P. damicornis, P. eydouxi and P. elegans - within and between populations in the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) and the Central Pacific. Genome-wide RAD-Seq comparisons of Central and TEP Pocillopora confirm that the morphospecies P. damicornis, P. eydouxi and P. elegans are not monophyletic, but instead fall into three distinct genetic groups. However, hybrid samples shared fixed alleles with their respective parental species and, even without strict monophyly, P. damicornis share a common set of 33 species-specific alleles across the Pacific. RAD-Seq data confirm the pattern of one-way introgressive hybridization among TEP Pocillopora, suggesting that introgression may play a role in generating shared, polyphyletic lineages among currently recognized Pocillopora species. Levels of population differentiation within genetic lineages indicate significantly higher levels of population differentiation in the Tropical Eastern Pacific than in the Central West Pacific.

Keywords: Hybridization; Phylogeography; Population genomics; Reef corals; Restriction-site Associated DNA Sequencing (RAD-Seq); Transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / classification
  • Anthozoa / genetics*
  • Genomics
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity