Population structure of king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) around peninsular Florida, as revealed by microsatellite DNA


Gold, John R., Elena Pak, and Doug A. DeVries
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A total of 1006 king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) representing 20 discrete samples collected between 1996 and 1998 along the east (Atlantic) and west (Gulf) coasts of Florida and the Florida Keys were assayed for allelic variation at seven nuclear-encoded microsatellites. No significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium expectations were found for six of the microsatellites, and genotypes at all microsatellites were independent. Allele distributions at each microsatellite were independent of sex and age of individuals. Homogeneity tests of spatial distributions of alleles at the microsatellites revealed two weakly divergent “genetic” subpopulations or stocks of king mackerel in Florida waters—one along the Atlantic coast and one along the Gulf coast. Homogeneity tests of allele distributions when samples were pooled along seasonal (temporal) boundaries, consistent with the temporal boundaries used currently for stock assessment and allocation of the king mackerel resource, were nonsignificant. The degree of genetic divergence between the two “genetic” stocks was small: on average, only 0.19% of the total genetic variance across all samples assayed occurred between the two regions. Cluster analysis, assignment tests, and spatial autocorrelation analysis did not generate patterns that were consistent with either geographic or spatial-temporal boundaries. King mackerel sampled from the Florida Keys could not be assigned unequivocally to either “genetic” stock. The genetic data were not consistent with current spatial-temporal boundaries employed in stock assessment and allocation of the king mackerel resource. The genetic differences between king mackerel in the Atlantic versus those in the Gulf most likely stem from reduced gene flow (migration) between the Atlantic and Gulf in relation to gene flow (migration) along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of peninsular Florida. This difference is consistent with findings for other marine fishes where data indicate that the southern Florida peninsula serves (or has served) as a biogeographic boundary.