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Diversity 2017, 9(1), 16; doi:10.3390/d9010016

Microsatellites Reveal Genetic Homogeneity among Outbreak Populations of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

1
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
2
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia 5090000, Chile
3
Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Sven Uthicke and Michael Wink
Received: 30 November 2016 / Revised: 5 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 March 2017 / Published: 10 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biology, Ecology and Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish)
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Abstract

Specific patterns in the initiation and spread of reef-wide outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish are important, both to understand potential causes (or triggers) of outbreaks and to develop more effective and highly targeted management and containment responses. Using analyses of genetic diversity and structure (based on 17 microsatellite loci), this study attempted to resolve the specific origin for recent outbreaks of crown-of-thorns on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We assessed the genetic structure amongst 2705 starfish collected from 13 coral reefs in four regions that spanned ~1000 km of the GBR. Our results indicate that populations sampled across the full length of the GBR are genetically homogeneous (G’ST = −0.001; p = 0.948) with no apparent genetic structure between regions. Approximate Bayesian computational analyses suggest that all sampled populations had a common origin and that current outbreaking populations of crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) in the Swains are not independent of outbreak populations in the northern GBR. Despite hierarchical sampling and large numbers of CoTS genotyped from individual reefs and regions, limited genetic structure meant we were unable to determine a putative source population for the current outbreak of CoTS on the GBR. The very high genetic homogeneity of sampled populations and limited evidence of inbreeding indicate rapid expansion in population size from multiple, undifferentiated latent populations. View Full-Text
Keywords: coral reefs; Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; population genetics; approximate Bayesian computation coral reefs; Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; population genetics; approximate Bayesian computation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Harrison, H.B.; Pratchett, M.S.; Messmer, V.; Saenz-Agudelo, P.; Berumen, M.L. Microsatellites Reveal Genetic Homogeneity among Outbreak Populations of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Diversity 2017, 9, 16.

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