Large-scale biogeographic patterns are reflected in the genetic structure of a broadcast spawning stony coral

R. M. van der Ven, H. A. Ratsimbazafy, M. Kochzius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Countries in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and along the Red Sea are particularly vulnerable to coral reef degradation, and understanding the degree of connectivity among coral reefs is a first step toward efficient conservation. The aim of this study is to investigate the genetic diversity, population structure and connectivity patterns of the broadcast spawning coral Acropora tenuis, first at a large scale comparing the Red Sea and the WIO, and second at a smaller scale comparing sites within the WIO. In total 689 individual A. tenuis colonies were sampled on 28 locations in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar and analysed with seven microsatellite markers. The sample site in the Red Sea was found to be differentiated from all other sites in the WIO, which confirms the hypothesised genetic break. High differentiation was found between the African mainland and Madagascar and within Madagascar. However, there is evidence for long-distance larval dispersal for A. tenuis in the North Mozambique Channel region, with exchange between northern Mozambique and northern Madagascar. The sites in the southwest of Madagascar show mixing with sites in northern Madagascar, as well as exchange with sites in northern Mozambique and Tanzania. Southern Mozambique forms a separate group in Bayesian clustering. High genetic connectivity was found for most sites along the East African mainland coast, with no indication for strict genetic barriers. These results support biophysical modelling studies, which propose Tanzania as a seeding source of larvae for downstream Kenya. These patterns of high genetic connectivity combined with contemporary dispersal barriers can be explained by the long larval duration of A. tenuis and the prevailing northbound East African Coast Current that facilitates higher genetic connectivity along the northern East African Coast, while eddies in the Mozambique Channel are causing larval retention in southern Mozambique and Madagascar.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCoral Reefs
StatePublished - Apr 22 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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