Species identification is fundamental to address questions about community ecology, biodiversity, conservation and resource management, at any life history stage. Current studies on fish larval ecology of tropical species are hampered by the lack of reliable and effective tools for identifying larvae at the species level. Emperors and large-eye breams comprise fish species from the perciform fish family Lethrinidae. They inhabit coastal and coral-reef habitats of the tropical Indo-Pacific, and they are important fishery resources. Their taxonomy is considered difficult and identification to species is often problematic. Lethrinidae larvae and juveniles can be identified on the basis of meristic counts at the sub-family level, but no further. In this study, we developed a set of polymorphic PCR markers (size polymorphisms at the intron regions from 4/5 nuclear protein-coding genes and single-strand conformation polymorphism of a 205-bp fragment at the mitochondrial 16S rRNA locus), to characterize 341 specimens from 21 Lethrinidae species from New Caledonia (southwestern tropical Pacific). A genetic data-bank was constructed using the genotypes screened from the multiple gene loci of adult or sub-adult specimens used as references for these species. The 16S rRNA gene fragment was able to differentiate species for the genus Lethrinus, but it provided little diagnostic resolution among different species within the genus Gymnocranius. A combination of the 16S rRNA marker and 4 nuclear markers developed herein allowed to sort out species within Gymnocranius spp. from New Caledonia. Using genotype distributions at nuclear loci to test for reproductive isolation, we found that three apparently undescribed large-eye bream species may exist, provisionally referred to as Gymnocranius sp. A, sp. B and sp. C. Subsequent genotyping of 137 Lethrinidae larvae collected from the bays of the Noumea peninsula, New Caledonia, found a total of three species (Lethrinus genivittatus, Lethrinus olivaceus and Gymnocranius sp. A).
- Biological species concept
- Cryptic species
- PCR markers
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics