Analysis (using three analytical approaches) of eight microsatellite markers from six locations in three geographic regions of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), including populations that differed in demographic characteristics, showed no evidence of genetic stock structure in the red throat emperor Lethrinus miniatus. Measures of inter-population differentiation were non-significant (P ≥ 0·67). Using a Bayesian clustering approach, ‘admixture’ was detected (mean alpha values >1) with allele frequencies for each of the locations sampled being correlated equally with allele frequencies from all locations sampled. The number of populations (K) identified was one, based on the estimates of the probability of the data at various K values (K = 1, 2, 3, … 6). Additionally, alpha values did not stabilize to relatively constant values in any of the Bayesian analyses performed, indicating that there was no real genetic structure between locations. Analysis of genetic variation as detected by analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) indicated that almost all of the variance in the data (99·74%, P ≤ 0·023) was within populations, rather than among populations (0·15%, P ≤ 0·176) or amongst regions sampled (0·10%, P ≤ 0·247) on the GBR. Fst statistics identified four individual loci having statistically significant differentiation among populations, but these were only related to one out of 12 pair-wise comparisons where populations differed demographically. Given these results (albeit using neutral markers), together with the capacity of adults and larvae to be mobile between reefs on the inter-connected GBR, it is considered unlikely that L. miniatus populations exist as distinct genetic stocks in the GBR. It is therefore not possible, using neutral markers, to reject the null hypothesis that the fishery be managed as a single panmictic stock.
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