Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. David Hicks

Second Advisor

Dr. Diego Figueroa

Third Advisor

Dr. Daniele Provenzano


NOAA's Islands in the Stream concept (IitS) of designating networks of marine protected areas as refugia in the Gulf of Mexico depends on genetic connectivity. Isolated habitats like those proposed by the IitS occur naturally off the Texas coast where hard-bottom structures protrude from mudflats, offering a small-scale study of the IitS feasibility. Two sequences, mitochondrial 16S ribosomal RNA and nuclear internal transcribed spacer, were used to build haplotype networks of Antipatharians (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia), corals with planktonic larvae that can act as a proxy for connectivity of other organisms. Two species showed no significant genetic differentiation or pattern of genetic variation by habitat type (natural or artificial reefs tested with AMOVA) or location (sites or protraction areas tested with AMOVA and a Mantel test). These results provide evidence of genetic connectivity between habitat types and locations. However, one species showed genetic diversity among locations and one between habitats.


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