Population genetic analyses of Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes provide evidence that local processes are operating during the early stages of marine adaptive radiations.

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancon, Panama.
Molecular Ecology (Impact Factor: 6.28). 04/2008; 17(6):1405-15. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03654.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Large-scale, spatially explicit models of adaptive radiation suggest that the spatial genetic structure within a species sampled early in the evolutionary history of an adaptive radiation might be higher than the genetic differentiation between different species formed during the same radiation over all locations. Here we test this hypothesis with a spatial population genetic analysis of Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes (Serranidae), one of the few potential cases of a recent adaptive radiation documented in the marine realm. Microsatellite analyses of Hypoplectrus puella (barred hamlet) and Hypoplectrus nigricans (black hamlet) from Belize, Panama and Barbados validate the population genetic predictions at the regional scale for H. nigricans despite the potential for high levels of gene flow between populations resulting from the 3-week planktonic larval phase of Hypoplectrus. The results are different for H. puella, which is characterized by significantly lower levels of spatial genetic structure than H. nigricans. An extensive field survey of Hypoplectrus population densities complemented by individual-based simulations shows that the higher abundance and more continuous distribution of H. puella could account for the reduced spatial genetic structure within this species. The genetic and demographic data are also consistent with the hypothesis that H. puella might represent the ancestral form of the Hypoplectrus radiation, and that H. nigricans might have evolved repeatedly from H. puella through ecological speciation. Altogether, spatial genetic analysis within and between Hypoplectrus species indicate that local processes can operate at a regional scale within recent marine adaptive radiations.

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