PLoS ONE (Apr 2011)

Genetic population structure of Tectura paleacea: implications for the mechanisms regulating population structure in patchy coastal habitats.

  • Emina Begovic,
  • David R Lindberg

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 4
p. e18408


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The seagrass limpet Tectura paleacea (Gastropoda; Patellogastropoda) belongs to a seagrass obligate lineage that has shifted from the Caribbean in the late Miocene, across the Isthmus of Panama prior to the closing of the Panamanian seaway, and then northward to its modern Baja California - Oregon distribution. To address whether larval entrainment by seagrass beds contributes to population structuring, populations were sampled at six California/Oregon localities approximately 2 degrees latitude apart during two post-settlement periods in July 2002 and June 2003. Partial cytochrome oxidase b (Cytb) sequences were obtained from 20 individuals (10 per year) from each population in order to determine the levels of population subdivision/connectivity. From the 120 individuals sequenced, there were eighty-one unique haplotypes, with the greatest haplotype diversity occurring in southern populations. The only significant genetic break detected was consistent with a peri-Point Conception (PPC) biogeographic boundary while populations north and south of Point Conception were each panmictic. The data further indicate that populations found south of the PPC biogeographic boundary originated from northern populations. This pattern of population structure suggests that seagrass patches are not entraining the larvae of T. paleacea by altering flow regimes within their environment; a process hypothesized to produce extensive genetic subdivision on fine geographic scales. In contrast to the haplotype data, morphological patterns vary significantly over very fine geographic scales that are inconsistent with the observed patterns of genetic population structure, indicating that morphological variation in T. paleacea might be attributed to differential ecophenotypic expression in response to local habitat variability throughout its distribution. These results suggest that highly localized conservation efforts may not be as effective as large-scale conservation efforts in near shore marine environments.