Arctic Ocean Diversity Synthesis

Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 195-210

First online:

Biodiversity and phylogeography of Arctic marine fauna: insights from molecular tools

  • Sarah Mincks HardyAffiliated withUniversity of Alaska, Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Email author 
  • , Christina M. CarrAffiliated withBiodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph
  • , Michael HardmanAffiliated withFinnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki
  • , Dirk SteinkeAffiliated withBiodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph
  • , Erin CorstorphineAffiliated withBiodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph
  • , Christopher MahAffiliated withSmithsonian Institution

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The last decade has seen an increase in the frequency and breadth of application of molecular tools, many of which are beginning to shed light on long-standing questions in biogeography and evolutionary history of marine fauna. We explore new developments with respect to Arctic marine invertebrates, focusing on molecular taxonomy and phylogeography—two areas that have seen the most progress in the time-frame of the Census of Marine Life. International efforts to generate genetic ‘barcodes’ have yielded new taxonomic insights and applications ranging from diet analysis to identification of larval forms. Increasing availability of genetic data in public databases is also facilitating exploration of large-scale patterns in Arctic marine populations. We present new case-studies in meta-population analysis of barcode data from polychaetes and echinoderms that demonstrate such phylogeographic applications. Emerging patterns from ours and other published studies include influences of a complex climatic and glacial history on genetic diversity and evolution in the Arctic, and contrasting patterns of both high gene flow and persistent biogeographic boundaries in contemporary populations.


Phylogeography Arctic biodiversity DNA barcoding Population connectivity Glacial cycles Trans-Arctic exchange