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Genetic relationships of the colour morphs of Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Pomacentridae) on the northern Great Barrier Reef


Genetic relationships of the colour morphs of Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Pomacentridae) on the northern Great Barrier Reef



Marine Biology (Berlin) 130(1): 109-117



ISSN/ISBN: 0025-3162

DOI: 10.1007/s002270050230

Acanthochromis polyacanthus is an unusual tropical damselfish because it lacks pelagic larvae and has lost the capacity for broad-scale dispersal among coral reefs. On the modern Great Barrier Reef, this fish has multiple colour morphs and we have previously described steep genetic clines in the central region between three colour morphs. A similar transition of colour morphs has been found in the far northern region (Latitude 11degreeS), where at least five colour morphs and intergrading hybrids were found during a survey of 14 locations on nine adjacent reefs. On two of these reefs, monochromatic white and bicoloured morphs coexist, partitioning the reef slope vertically when sympatric, but occupying the full depth range elsewhere. In areas of overlap, they interbreed, producing hybrids of intermediate colour. Although the discriminatory power of our genetic analysis was weakened by the low level of variability in these populations (only four polymorphic loci), allozyme electrophoresis revealed significant genetic differentiation within and among reefs. There was neither simple linkage between colour and protein variation, nor correlation between genetic similarity and proximity of sampled populations. We suggest that the observed chaotic structure is the result of differences among the founding populations, although the two colour-based stocks have been homogenized through a long history of introgression during multiple episodes of isolation and secondary contact. Despite genetic mixing, phenotypic diversity (i.e. colour morphs) seems to have been preserved in these populations by sexual selection, perhaps reinforced by natural selection. The long-term stability of this outcome, however, is suggested by the presence of unique morphs on two reefs that are detached from the continental shelf and surrounded by very deep water. The strong identity of these populations can be attributed to long occupation of these isolated sites compared with those on the continental shelf which have only been established in the last 15 000 yr and still retain differences arising from the initial founder events.

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Accession: 008729074

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Related references

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