Studivan MS, Voss JD (2018) Population connectivity among shallow and mesophotic Montastraea cavernosa corals in the Gulf of Mexico identifies potential for refugia. Coral Reefs https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-018-1733-7
This study was funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), and is a product of a collaborative effort led by the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT) headquartered at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. CIOERT seeks to increase our understanding of mesophotic connectivity and ecology through enhanced habitat characterization and development of exploration technologies. Our collaborators and partners include Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries, UNCW Undersea Vehicle Program, Smithsonian Marine Station and Carrie Bow Cay Field Station, and UM Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS).
We examined the genetic structure of shallow and mesophotic populations of Montastraea cavernosa in Belize, the northwest GOM including Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and the southwest GOM including Pulley Ridge and Dry Tortugas. This study identifies three main conclusions: 1) the northwest GOM is panmictic, including mesophotic sites, 2) Pulley Ridge appears isolated from the rest of the sites examined, and 3) the mesophotic population in Belize, while isolated from the nearby (~10 m) shallow population, is highly similar to the shallow Dry Tortugas population ~1,000 km away. The results from this Gulf-wide comparison of genetic connectivity suggest that mesophotic populations in subregions of the GOM may be acting as refugia with oceanographic conditions likely influencing larval dispersal across a regional scale.