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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Vol. 121, 2018, Pages: 46-51

Genetic diversity within grouper species and a method for interspecific hybrid identification using DNA barcoding and RYR3 marker

Meng Qu, Wei Tang, Qiaohong Liu, Dexiang Wang, Shaoxiong Ding

State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, College of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361102, Fujian Province, China.


Groupers (family Epinephelidae) are an assemblage of coral reef fishes comprising more than 160 species in 16 genera, many of which are both environmentally and economically valuable. Because of their similar morphology, variable color patterns, and tendency for interspecies hybridization, morphological identification of groupers usually leads to taxonomic confusion. To find an effective method for identifying different grouper species and hybrids, evaluate genetic diversity and uncover any synonymous or cryptic species, we sampled a total of 221 specimens representing 57 species in 9 genera in the China Seas. Both mitochondrial (mt) cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) were found to be effective barcoding genes. We also developed an efficient protocol for identifying hybrid groupers using mt markers and the nuclear RYR3 gene and found the first record of wide interspecies hybridization in genus Epinephelus. This barcoding study revealed high genetic divergence in many widespread species and possible synonyms. In addition to providing a molecular method for identifying grouper species, this study offers important resources for the further study of grouper conservation genetics, speciation, hybridization and other evolutionary traits.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Groupers, Intraspecific diversity, Hybrid identification, RYR3 marker, DNA barcoding.

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