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The application of genomics to inform conservation of a functionally important reef fish (Scarus niger) in the Philippines

Stockwell, Brian L., Larson, Wesley A., Waples, Ryan K., Abesamis, Rene A., Seeb, Lisa W., Carpenter, Kent E.
Conservation genetics 2016 v.17 no.1 pp. 239-249
Scarus, coasts, conservation areas, coral reefs, fish, gene flow, genomics, larvae, linkage disequilibrium, marine resources, population structure, siblings, single nucleotide polymorphism, Philippines
Coral reefs within the Coral Triangle (CT) are home to the greatest marine diversity on the globe and are an important supplier of marine resources to densely populated coastal regions. Many coral reefs within the CT and around the world are under threat from over-exploitation. Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been proven to be effective tools in restoring fish stocks. However, the role that MPAs play in promoting connectivity at greater distances through larval dispersal is still unknown. RADseq was used to discover 4253 SNPs from 81 individuals of the dusky parrotfish (Scarus niger) collected from three sites within the Philippines. A lack of population structure suggested a high rate of gene flow (F ST = 0.007). Estimates of Nₑ from linkage disequilibrium are relatively large, ranging from 1200 to 2000. A sibling analysis revealed one pair of well-supported full siblings (r = 0.773) and one pair of putative half siblings (r = 0.191) between sites separated by more than 500 km. The low F ST values indicate a high degree of gene flow between the reefs within the sampling area while the sibling analysis suggests demographic connectivity between the Sibuyan Sea and the Sulu Sea. The Mindoro–Panay throughflow is a likely vector by which larvae are transported between these sites, suggesting that reefs in Romblon are sources for reefs near Basay, 400 km to the south. Given the reliance of a vast majority of coral reef fishes on larval dispersal, this study reveals that MPAs established within the central Philippines can supply varying levels of larvae to overfished reefs.