Limited genetic signal from potential cloning and selfing within wild populations of coral-eating crown-of-thorns seastars (Acanthaster cf. solaris)

Uthicke, Sven, Pratchett, Morgan S., Messmer, Vanessa, and Harrison, Hugo (2021) Limited genetic signal from potential cloning and selfing within wild populations of coral-eating crown-of-thorns seastars (Acanthaster cf. solaris). Coral Reefs, 40. pp. 131-138.

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Population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns seastars (CoTS; Acanthaster spp.) are contributing to extensive coral loss and reef degradation throughout the Indo-Pacific, but the causes and underlying mechanisms of population maintenance and outbreaks are equivocal. Two recent publications suggest that, in addition to outbreeding sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction through larval fission and selfing may contribute to rapid increases in the local abundance of Acanthaster spp. We re-analysed two large microsatellite datasets (collectively representing 3714 individuals) that investigated connectivity in the Great Barrier Reef and wider Pacific region to investigate if potential cloning or selfing can be evidenced in the population genetic structure. Within this dataset, we identified only a small number (18, < 0.5%) of putative clones (repeated multilocus genotypes). We argue that several of these are due to sampling and processing errors rather than direct evidence of cloning. Analysis of the population genetic structure (i.e. pairwise genetic differences between individuals, deviations from Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium, and linkage disequilibrium) also yielded no genetic evidence for asexual reproduction. There was a tendency towards slight heterozygote deficits, so we cannot refute that selfing does occur, but observed patterns are most likely attributable to sampling artefacts. Although we cannot exclude that asexual reproduction occurs to some extent in Acanthaster populations, we find no evidence that these processes make a contribution to population structure or directly enhance larval supply.

Item ID: 66077
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Crown-of-thorns seastar, Asexual reproduction, Coral crisis, Outbreak
Copyright Information: (C) Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP190101593
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2020 07:39
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190102 Ecosystem adaptation to climate change @ 100%
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