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Combining population genetics and stable isotope analysis to analyze migration patterns in adult crown-of-thorns sea stars (Acanthaster planci)

Robert Sigl1, Gerhard Gebauer2, Maximilian Schweinsberg3, Kathrin Lampert3, Christian Laforsch1
1 Animal Ecology I, University Bayreuth
2 Laboratory of Isotope Biogeochemistry, University Bayreuth
3 Department of Animal Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

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02.10.2014, 15:50-16:05, H36, NW III

Mass outbreaks of the corallivore sea star Acanthaster planci threaten coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. The origin of most outbreaks is linked to enhanced larval food supply, transmitted through terrestrial runoff, leading to higher survival rates. Although some outbreaks result in stable, but small populations, the fate of most adult A. planci after the depletion of a reef patch remains unknown. Mass emigration to distant reefs may explain the sudden disappearance of adult starfish from exploited reefs. However, until now such migration patterns have not been shown. Population genetics may hint for such migration patterns as immigrants to existing populations can be identified. However, population genetics cannot answer the question if immigrants arrived as drifting larvae or as migrating adult individuals. Stable isotope analysis can fill this gap and identify adult immigrants into existing populations. A combination of these two methods has not been applied in marine benthic environments until now and might resemble a promising tool for marine ecologists.

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last modified 2014-09-15