Prata et al. 2022

scientific article | Mol Ecol

Deep connections: Divergence histories with gene flow in mesophotic Agaricia corals

Prata KE, Riginos C, Gutenkunst RN, Latijnhouwers KR, Sánchez JA, Englebert N, Hay KB, Bongaerts P


Largely understudied, mesophotic coral ecosystems lie below shallow reefs (at >30 m depth) and comprise ecologically distinct communities. Brooding reproductive modes appear to predominate among mesophotic-specialist corals and may limit genetic connectivity among populations. Using reduced representation genomic sequencing, we assessed spatial population genetic structure at 50 m depth in an ecologically important mesophotic-specialist species Agaricia grahamae, among locations in the Southern Caribbean. We also tested for hybridisation with the closely related (but depth-generalist) species Agaricia lamarcki, within their sympatric depth zone (50 m). In contrast to our expectations, no spatial genetic structure was detected between the reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire (~40 km apart) within A. grahamae. However, cryptic taxa were discovered within both taxonomic species, with those in A. lamarcki (incompletely) partitioned by depth and those in A. grahamae occurring sympatrically (at the same depth). Hybrid analyses and demographic modelling identified contemporary and historical gene flow among cryptic taxa, both within and between A. grahamae and A. lamarcki. These results (1) indicate that spatial connectivity and subsequent replenishment may be possible between islands of moderate geographic distances for A. grahamae, an ecologically important mesophotic species, (2) that cryptic taxa occur in the mesophotic zone and environmental selection along shallow to mesophotic depth gradients may drive divergence in depth-generalists such as A. lamarcki, and (3) highlight that gene flow links taxa within this relativity diverse Caribbean genus.

Depth range
15- 85 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
38 x (total of 10767 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on 'mesophotic' depth range
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'

Molecular ecology

Scleractinia (Hard Corals)

Colombia - Caribbean Sea

Manned Submersible
SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)

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