Extensive gene flow among mytilid (Bathymodiolus thermophilus) populations from hydrothermal vents of the eastern Pacific
- Cite this article as:
- Craddock, C., Hoeh, W.R., Lutz, R.A. et al. Marine Biology (1995) 124: 137. doi:10.1007/BF00349155
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Prior studies of the hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus thermophilus (Bivalvia: Mytilidae), provided conflicting predictions about the dispersal ability and population structure of this highly specialized species. Analyses of morphological features associated with its larval shells revealed a feeding larval stage that might facilitate dispersal between ephemeral vent habitats. In contrast, an allozyme study revealed substantial genetic differentiation between samples taken from populations 2370 km apart on Galápagos Rift (Latitude 0°N) and the East Pacific Rise (13°N). To resolve the discrepancy between these studies, we examined allozyme and mitochondrial (mt) DNA variation in new samples from the same localities plus more recently discovered sites (9° and 11°N) along the East Pacific Rise. Although analysis of 26 enzyme-determining loci revealed relatively low levels of genetic variation within the five populations, no evidence existed for significant barriers to dispersal among populations. We estimated an average effective rate of gege flow (Nm) of ≃ 8 migrants per population per generation. Two common mtDNA variants predominated at relatively even frequencies in each population, and similarly provided no evidence for barriers to gene flow or isolation-by-distance across this species' known range. Larvae of this species appear to be capable of dispersing hundreds of kilometers along a continuous ridge system and across gaps separating non-contiguous spreading centers.