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Sex change and effective population size: implications for population genetic studies in marine fish

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Large variance in reproductive success is the primary factor that reduces effective population size (Ne) in natural populations. In sequentially hermaphroditic (sex-changing) fish, the sex ratio is typically skewed and biased towards the 'first' sex, while reproductive success increases considerably after sex change. Therefore, sex-changing fish populations are theoretically expected to have lower Ne than gonochorists (separate sexes), assuming all other parameters are essentially equal. In this study, we estimate Ne from genetic data collected from two ecologically similar species living along the eastern coast of South Africa: one gonochoristic, the 'santer' sea bream Cheimerius nufar, and one protogynous (female-first) sex changer, the 'slinger' sea bream Chrysoblephus puniceus. For both species, no evidence of genetic structuring, nor significant variation in genetic diversity, was found in the study area. Estimates of contemporary Ne were significantly lower in the protogynous species, but the same pattern was not apparent over historical timescales. Overall, our results show that sequential hermaphroditism may affect Ne differently over varying time frames, and that demographic signatures inferred from genetic markers with different inheritance modes also need to be interpreted cautiously, in relation to sex-changing life histories.
Journal: Heredity
ISSN: 0018-067X
Issue: 4
Volume: 117
Pages: 251 - 258
Number of pages: 8
Publication year:2016