Fine-scale population structure of two anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea and Heteractis magnifica) in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

  • Remy Gatins

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Anemonefish are one of the main groups that have been used over the last decade to empirically measure larval dispersal and connectivity in coral reef populations. A few species of anemones are integral to the life history of these fish, as well as other obligate symbionts, yet the biology and population structure of these anemones remains poorly understood. The aim of this study was to measure the genetic structure of these anemones within and between two reefs in order to assess their reproductive mode and dispersal potential. To do this, we sampled almost exhaustively two anemones species (Stichodactyla gigantea and Heteractis magnifica) at two small islands in Kimbe Bay (Papua New Guinea) separated by approximately 25 km. Both the host anemones and the anemonefish are heavily targeted for the aquarium trade, in addition to the populations being affected by bleaching pressures (Hill and Scott 2012; Hobbs et al. 2013; Saenz- Agudelo et al. 2011; Thomas et al. 2014), therefore understanding their biology is crucial for better management strategies. Panels of microsatellite markers were developed for each species using next generation sequencing tools. Clonality analyses confirm six pairs of identical genotypes for S. gigantea (n=350) and zero for H. magnifica (n=128), indicating presence/absence of asexual reproduction in this region. S. gigantea showed low structure between islands (FST= 0.003, p-value= 0.000), however, even if the majority of the individuals were unrelated (r~0), 81 families that shared 50% of their genetic material formed from two to four members were found. Out of these families, 45% were found with individuals only within Tuare Island, 11% only in Kimbe Island, and 44% were sharing individuals among islands. In comparison, H. magnifica showed no structure (FST= 0.002, p-value= 0.278), mean relatedness indicated the majority of individuals were unrelated, and 31 families were identified. Families again consisted from two to four members and were found within Kimbe Island 90% of the time, and shared between islands the remaining 10%. Results show the first genetic evidence of their reproductive characteristics, high levels of connectivity among islands and significant levels of genetic relatedness among individuals within islands.
Date of AwardDec 2014
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • Population Genetics
  • Host Sea Anemone
  • Stichodactyla Gigantea
  • Heteractis Magnifica

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