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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 335:227-231 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps335227

Visual discernment of sexual recruits is not feasible for Acropora palmata

M. W. Miller1,*, I. B. Baums2,4, D. E. Williams1,3

1NOAA-Fisheries Service, Southeast Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami, Florida 33149, USA
2Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, and 3Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy., Miami, Florida 33149, USA
4Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, 808 Mueller Laboratory, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

ABSTRACT: In fragmenting corals, estimation of population structure, extinction risk, and recovery potential requires accurate assessment of the relative contribution of sexual versus asexual reproduction. This yields an operational tendency for field ecologists to surmise levels of sexual recruitment from visual surveys, as in a recent study by Grober-Dunsmore et al. (2006; Mar Ecol Prog Ser 321:123–132). The recent development of microsatellite markers for threatened elkhorn coral Acropora palmata allowed us to test the accuracy of such visual assessments in 2 separate populations, showing them to be highly unreliable. Therefore, for clonal species that rely heavily on fragmentation, extreme caution is required in determining levels of sexual recruitment or recovery potential in the absence of molecular genetic screening.

KEY WORDS: Microsatellites · Clones · Acroporid coral · Caribbean Sea · Genetic screening · Monitoring

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