MEPS 306:133-142 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps306133

Genetic identification of Caribbean scleractinian coral recruits at the Flower Garden Banks and the Florida Keys

T. L. Shearer1,2,*, M. A. Coffroth2

1School of Biology, 310 Ferst Drive, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0230, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, 109 Cooke Hall, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260, USA

ABSTRACT: Larval recruitment is the foundation for future coral populations. However, difficulties in accurately identifying the species of recruits confound our understanding of relationships between recruitment and adult populations. In addition, current methods of scleractinian coral recruit identification destroy the tissue, precluding molecular or genomic analysis of these samples. A genetic method was developed to distinguish among coral species commonly observed in Caribbean recruitment studies and to facilitate further genetic analysis of these samples. Application of this method to monitoring recruitment at the Flower Garden Banks (FGB) and the Florida Keys (FK) throughout the 2000 to 2001 and 2001 to 2002 reproductive seasons revealed almost exclusive recruitment from 2 brooding species Agaricia agaricites and Porites astreoides. Recruitment at the FGB was significantly higher than across the FK. Significant spatial variation in recruitment was observed within the FK, and although more recruits were observed in 2001 to 2002, there was no significant temporal variation. Differences in local adult populations (e.g. population sizes and live coral coverage), post-settlement mortality and general reef health were likely contributors to disparities in recruitment levels of brooding corals observed at these reefs.

KEY WORDS: Recruitment · Scleractinian coral · Caribbean · Genetic identification · COI · RFLP · Larval dispersal

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