Scientia Marina, Vol 79, No 4 (2015)

Mitochondrial DNA evidences reflect an incipient population structure in Atlantic goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara, Epinephelidae) in Brazil

Júnio S. Damasceno
Programa de Pós-graduação em Oceanografia Ambiental, Departamento de Oceanografia e Ecologia, Base Oceanográfica, UFES - Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo - Laboratório de Genética da Conservação, Programa de Pós-graduação em Zoologia de Vertebrados, PUCMINAS - Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais , Brazil

Raquel Siccha-Ramirez
Laboratório de Biologia e Genética de Peixes, Departamento de Morfologia, Instituto de Biociências de Botucatu, UNESP, Universidade Estadual Paulista - Laboratorio Costero de Tumbes, Instituto del Mar del Perú, IMARPE , Brazil

Millke J.A. Morales
Laboratório de Biologia e Genética de Peixes, Departamento de Morfologia, Instituto de Biociências de Botucatu, UNESP, Universidade Estadual Paulista , Brazil

Claudio Oliveira
Laboratório de Biologia e Genética de Peixes, Departamento de Morfologia, Instituto de Biociências de Botucatu, UNESP, Universidade Estadual Paulista , Brazil

Rodrigo A. Torres
Laboratório de Genômica Evolutiva e Ambiental, Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco , Brazil

Edvaldo N. Costa
Centro de Pesquisa e Conservação da Biodiversidade do Nordeste, CEPENE/ICMBio , Brazil

Gláucia C. Silva-Oliveira
Laboratório de Evolução, Instituto de Estudos Costeiros, Campus Universitário de Bragança, UFPA, Universidade Federal do Pará , Brazil

Marcelo Vallinoto
Laboratório de Evolução, Instituto de Estudos Costeiros, Campus Universitário de Bragança, UFPA, Universidade Federal do Pará - InBIO/CIBIO - Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Universidade do Porto , Brazil

Leonardo F. Machado
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Biológicas, UFES, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo , Brazil

Vander C. Tosta
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Biológicas, UFES, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo , Brazil

Ana Paula C. Farro
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Biológicas, UFES, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo , Brazil

Maurício Hostim-Silva
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Biológicas, UFES, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo , Brazil


The Atlantic goliath grouper is a critically endangered species that inhabits estuarine and reef environments and is threatened primarily by fishing activities and habitat destruction. Despite the urgent need for protection, its genetic conservation status remains unknown. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the gene flow among the populations of the species along the coast of Brazil based on the control region of the mitochondrial DNA. The results indicate low haplotype diversity (0.40-0.86) and very low nucleotide diversity (0.1-0.5%). They also show that the genetic diversity of the species varies considerably along the coast and that this finding may be especially important for the identification of priority areas for its conservation. The population analyses indicate a low but significant degree of genetic structuring (ΦST =0.111), probably due to the occurrence of rare haplotypes at some locations, although the genetic differentiation between sites was not correlated with geographic distance (r=0.0501; p=0.7719), and the shared haplotypes indicate that gene flow occurs among all locations along the Brazilian coast. The results of the pairwise FST indicate a high degree of genetic differentiation between locations. The incipient population structuring detected in the present study is not related systematically to the geological or physical features of the Brazilian coast. The complex interaction of fluctuations in sea level, marine currents, and the reproductive characteristics of the species hampers the identification of the specific role of each of these processes in the gene flow dynamics of the population units of the Atlantic goliath grouper. The low overall levels of genetic diversity, the pairwise FST values and the significant population structuring among groups (ΦCT) identified in the present study all reinforce the critically endangered status of the species and are inconsistent with the presence of a single, panmictic population of groupers on the Brazilian coast. The results of this study suggest that, though it may be incipient, the observed genetic structuring must be taken into account in order to prevent potential problems, such as outbreeding depression, in the management of wild stocks.


critically endangered species; gene flow; genetic diversity; marine fish; western Atlantic Ocean

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