October 23, 2014, 1:05 am

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  • Lophelia pertusa colony, Mingulay Reef, NE Atlantic
Lophelia pertusa colony, Mingulay Reef, NE Atlantic. © J.M. Roberts, SAMS (2005).

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What do genetics tell us?

Molecular methods can be applied to target a variety of biological and ecological questions. Some molecular markers can provide useful information to infer evolutionary relationships among species and higher taxonomic ranks. This is crucial to understand how biodiversity is structured and how best it can be preserved over the long term.

Other molecular markers can be used to target populations at a defined geographical scale. Precious information about several fundamental aspects of the biology of a species can be obtained. For example, understanding how genetic diversity is distributed, if and how populations are connected via larval dispersal is essential to create meaningful conservation management strategies. This information also helps us understand the health of a population in a particular area - for example in terms of coral biology by understanding the proportion of sexual versus asexual reproduction. This information is essential for the design of marine protected areas.