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Species of the family Lutjanidae constitute an important fishery resource in tropical marine areas worldwide and are intensely exploited because of their excellent commercial value and quality. In Colombia, the lane snapper Lutjanus synagris is considered vulnerable to overfishing due to its biological characteristics, habitat deterioration, and historical decrease in catch rates in regions where it used to comprise the highest percentage of the landings. In order to generate more biological information needed to make effective fishery management decisions and policies, the genetic structure of L. synagris was analyzed in three areas of the Colombian Caribbean (Santa Marta, Rosario Islands, and Capurganá) using microsatellite-type molecular markers. Fourteen primers reported for two phylogenetically close species (Rhomboplites aurorubens and Lutjanus campechanus) were analyzed, eight of which were polymorphic and informative for the species under study. All loci were found to depart from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium due to marked heterozygote deficiency in all the populations studied. Both the analysis of molecular variance (total population ΦST = 0.006, P = 0.022) and spatial analysis of molecular variance showed a slight statistically significant population structure (best FCT = 0.003, ΦST = 0.007, P = 0.0001) that separated the Capurganá population from those of the other areas with no evidence of isolation by distance (Mantel test Rxy = 0.023, P = 0.057). The results suggest that the life history of the species and the regional oceanographic conditions play an important role in determining the genetic structure and the existence of two different genetic stocks that should be managed according to their population structure.
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