Geographical patterns of genetic structure in marine species with contrasting life histories

R. A. Pelc, R. R. Warner, S. D. Gaines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim Phylogeographical breaks may reflect historical or present-day impediments to gene flow, and the congruence of these breaks across multiple species lends insight into evolutionary history and connectivity among populations. In marine systems, examining the concordance of phylogeographical breaks is challenging due to the varied sampling scales in population genetics studies and the diverse life histories of marine organisms. A quantitative approach that considers the effects of sampling scale and species life history is needed.

Location The south-east and south-west coasts of the United States.

Methods We quantitatively analysed previously published datasets of marine fauna to look for concordance among phylogeographical breaks. We used a bootstrap approach to determine the regions where phylogeographical breaks are more common than expected by chance among species with planktonic dispersal as well as those with restricted dispersal.

Results On the south-west coast, breaks were clustered near Point Conception among planktonic dispersers and near Los Angeles among restricted dispersers. On the south-east coast, breaks were most common near the southern tip of Florida for planktonic dispersers and near Cape Canaveral for restricted dispersers.

Main conclusions Dispersal ability is an important determinant of phylogeographical patterns in marine species. Breaks among planktonic dispersers on both coasts are congruent with present-day flow-mediated barriers to dispersal, suggesting that phylogeographical structure in species with planktonic larvae may reflect contemporary oceanography, while breaks in restricted dispersers reflect historical processes. These results highlight the importance of explicitly considering sampling scale and life history when evaluating phylogeographical patterns.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Biogeography
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biology

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