Species of Lutjanus Bloch are highly valued fish in some fisheries of the world and some species are cultured in the Southeast Asia especially in South China. Wild larvae are still the major source of mariculture in South China because artificial breeding techniques for most Lutjanus species have not yet been available. The Nansha coral reefs (also called Spratly Archipelago) water area, which is located in the South China Sea, is the main habitat and spawn area for Lutjanus in China. Larval identification of Lutjanus is important for relative ecological studies and mariculture, but larvae of many closely related species, such as those of the genus Lutjanus, are different to be distinguished morphologically. In the present study, a PCR-based fingerprinting technique called amplified fragment length polymorphism AFLP was used in the characterization and identification of 11 Lutjanus species captured in Nansha coral reefs. Optimal AFLP patterns were obtained with primer combination of E + AGC/M + CAA selective nucleotides. There were in total 132 AFLP loci in all specimens, and AFLP markers of each species varied from 44 to 69, but only 7 markers were fixed in all specimens. Meanwhile, high levels of intraspecific homogeneity were observed. All 11 species of Lutjanus were successfully identified by the comparative analyses of AFLP patterns. Moreover, neighbour-joining and UPGMA analyses of AFLP data were compared with current morphological taxonomic systems. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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