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Major Genetic Differences between Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci) Populations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans
John A. H. Benzie
Vol. 53, No. 6 (Dec., 1999), pp. 1782-1795
Published by: Society for the Study of Evolution
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640440
Page Count: 14
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Spatial variation in allelic frequencies at nine allozyme loci were assayed in 20 populations of the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, collected throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These data were analyzed together with published data, for the same loci, from an additional 19 populations, giving a total sample size of approximately 1800 individuals. There was a marked discontinuity between the Indian and Pacific Ocean populations, but those off Western Australia and from the Southeast Asian region had a strong Pacific affinity. The genetic groups were congruent with the distributions of two color morph groups: gray-green to red-brown forms in the Pacific and a blue to pale red form in the Indian Ocean. These patterns of genetic structure are similar to those described for the starfish Linckia laevigata, which has similar life-history characteristics. Vicariant events may have influenced some populations within the Pacific, but the allozyme data cannot resolve the effects of these events clearly. Patterns of variation within regions were consistent with isolation by distance, but, at larger scales, were obscured by regional vicariance and some outliers, particularly by apparently high levels of gene flow between Japan and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Apparent gene flow between population pairs was not closely related to present-day ocean currents. The results demonstrate a strong influence of allopatric separation on genetic divergence at large geographic scales, but also show evidence of slow rates of change in gene frequencies consistent with the large population sizes of this species. Low levels of divergence between groups demonstrate the genetic structure is recent (Pleistocene) and are likely responses to changes in climate and sea level.
Evolution © 1999 Society for the Study of Evolution