Sturm et al. 2020

scientific article | Sci Rep | open access

Population genetic structure of the great star coral, Montastraea cavernosa, across the Cuban archipelago with comparisons between microsatellite and SNP markers

Sturm AB, Eckert RJ, Méndez JG, González-Díaz P, Voss JD


Coral reef habitats surrounding Cuba include relatively healthy, well-developed shallow and mesophotic (30–150 m) scleractinian communities at the cross-currents of the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA). However, Cuba’s coral communities are not immune to the declines observed throughout the TWA, and there is limited information available regarding genetic connectivity, diversity, and structure among these populations. This represents an immense gap in our understanding of coral ecology and population dynamics at both local and regional scales. To address this gap, we evaluated the population genetic structure of the coral Montastraea cavernosa across eight reef sites surrounding Cuba. Colonies were genotyped using nine microsatellite markers and > 9,000 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers generated using the 2bRAD approach to assess fine-scale genetic structure across these sites. Both the microsatellite and SNP analyses identified patterns of genetic differentiation among sample populations. While the microsatellite analyses did not identify significant genetic structure across the seven shallow M. cavernosa sampling sites, the SNP analyses revealed significant pairwise population differentiation, suggesting that differentiation is greater between eastern and western sites. This study provides insight into methodological differences between microsatellite and SNP markers including potential trade-offs between marker-specific biases, sample size, sequencing costs, and the ability to resolve subtle patterns of population genetic structure. Furthermore, this study suggests that locations in western Cuba may play important roles in this species’ regional metapopulation dynamics and therefore may merit incorporation into developing international management efforts in addition to the local management the sites receive.

Depth range
1- 75 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
25 x (total of 7781 words)

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

Molecular ecology

Scleractinia (Hard Corals)


Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Author profiles