Population structure and variance effective size of red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) in the northern Gulf of Mexico


Saillant, Eric, and John R. Gold
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We assayed allelic variation at 19 nuclear-encoded microsatellites among 1622 Gulf red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) sampled from the 1995 and 1997 cohorts at each of three offshore localities in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). Localities represented western, central, and eastern subregions within the northern Gulf. Number of alleles per microsatellite per sample ranged from four to 23, and gene diversity ranged from 0.170 to 0.917. Tests of conformity to Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium expectations and of genotypic equilibrium between pairs of microsatellites were generally nonsignificant following Bonferroni correction. Significant genic or genotypic heterogeneity (or both) among samples was detected at four microsatellites and over all microsatellites. Levels of divergence among samples were low (FST ≤0.001). Pairwise exact tests revealed that six of seven “significant” comparisons involved temporal rather than spatial heterogeneity. Contemporaneous or variance effective size (NeV) was estimated from the temporal variance in allele frequencies by using a maximum-likelihood method. Estimates of NeV ranged between 1098 and >75,000 and differed significantly among localities; the NeV estimate for the sample from the northcentral Gulf was >60 times as large as the estimates for the other two localities. The differences in variance effective size could reflect differences in number of individuals successfully reproducing, differences in patterns and intensity of immigration, or both, and are consistent with the hypothesis, supported by life-history data, that different “demographic stocks” of red snapper are found in the northern Gulf. Estimates of NeV for red snapper in the northern Gulf were at least three orders of magnitude lower than current estimates of census size (N). The ratio of effective to census size (Ne/N) is far below that expected in an ideal population and may reflect high variance in individual reproductive success, high temporal and spatial variance in productivity among subregions or a combination of the two.