Genetic analysis reveals harvested Lethrinus nebulosus in the Southwest Indian Ocean comprise two cryptic species

Amy J. E. Healey, Gavin Gouws, Sean T. Fennessy, Baraka Kuguru, Warwick H. H. Sauer, Paul Shaw, Niall McKeown

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This study initially aimed to investigate the genetic population/stock structuring of Lethrinus nebulosus in the Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO) to inform management practices in light of emerging evidence of overharvesting of this species throughout its distribution. Adult samples were genotyped for 14 nuclear microsatellites and by sequencing fragments of the mtDNA control region and COI gene. A salient feature of the data was the congruent cyto-nuclear partitioning of samples into two high divergent, reciprocally monophyletic groups. This indicates that despite no a priori evidence, hitherto described L. nebulosus in the SWIO comprises two cryptic species that co-occur among southern samples. This intermingling indicates that, at least in southern samples, both species are being indiscriminately harvested, which may severely compromise sustainability. Limited microsatellite differentiation was detected within both species, though there was some evidence of isolation in the Mauritian population. In contrast, mtDNA revealed a pattern consistent with chaotic genetic patchiness, likely promoted by stochastic recruitment, which may necessitate a spatial bet-hedging approach to management to satisfy fishery management and conservation goals
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsx245
Pages (from-to)1465-1472
Number of pages8
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 05 Jan 2018


  • biodiversity
  • cryptic species
  • microsatellite
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • stock
  • sustainability


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