The genetic effects of larval dispersal depend on spatial scale and habitat characteristics
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- Parsons, K.E. Marine Biology (1996) 126: 403. doi:10.1007/BF00354622
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The intertidal gastropods Bembicium vittatum and Austrocochlea constricta, which have direct and planktonic larval development, respectively, occur sympatrically at sites across a number of islands at the Houtman Abrolhos archipelago and two harbours at Albany in Western Australia. Their distribution provide an opportunity to examine the effect of dispersal ability on levels of genetic subdivision at a number of spatial scales. FST (standardised variance in allelic frequencies) values in the range 0.361 to 0.396, determined from allozyme frequencies at 12 to 13 polymorphic loci, confirm isolation of Abrolhos and Albany populations, which are separated by 900 km of coastline, in both species. Within the Abrolhos and Albany, levels of subdivision in B. vittatum were high, but similar, as indicated by FST values of 0.091 and 0.090, respectively. In A. constricta, a mean value of 0.160 at the Abrolhos suggests severe restrictions to gene flow, while 0.021 at Albany indicates much stronger connections among populations. FST values at the Abrolhos support previous suggestions that this archipelago favours genetic subdivision in both direct and planktonic-developing species. The Albany harbours favoured subdivision only in B. vittatum, the low values of FST in A. constricta being attributed to strong mixing between the harbours, thus facilitating gene flow via planktonic larvae. The isolation of A. constricta populations at the Abrolhos can be explained in terms of highly localised recruitment, the result of limited water movement in complex intertidal habitats. The study illustrates the value of examining sympatric direct and planktonic developers in assessing the role of larval dispersal in patterns of genetic subdivision, and concludes that planktonic larvae may not promote gene flow over broad or even some fine spatial scales.