Two species of the Bahamian “fire coral,” Millepora complanata and Millepora alcicornis, exhibit four morphologies: fully encrusting, encrusting and upright branching, upright bladed, and upright branching blades. The purpose of this research is to determine whether the colony morphologies represented by the two Millepora species are matched by genetic isolation, using Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD). DNA isolation protocols based upon Rowan and Powers (1991) and Lopez et al. (1999) were developed to eliminate zooxanthellae DNA contamination. This study explores three hypotheses: 1) species of “fire corals” of the Bahamas are heterogeneous assemblages of genetically distinct forms, or are single species possessing multiple morphologies; 2) the described “species” are a spectrum of colony growth-forms reflecting ecological conditions rather than genetic isolation; 3) the range of growth-forms observed is the result of extensive hybridization (Tepper, 2000).
Melissa Bertelsen, ’01 Superior, WI
Major: Biology and Environmental Studies
Sponsor: Craig Tepper