, Volume 511, Issue 1-3, pp 91-102

Molecular Phylogeography and Evolutionary History of the Estuarine Copepod, Acartia Tonsa, on the Northwest Atlantic Coast

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Abstract

Coastal estuaries are useful model systems to study the ecological and evolutionary responses of organisms to highly variable, discontinuous habitats. For this study, the molecular population genetic diversity of the planktonic calanoid copepod Acartia tonsa (Dana, 1849) was described based on DNA sequence variation for a 183 base-pair region of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene. Samples of A. tonsa were collected from four estuaries on the Atlantic coast of the USA during 1993 and 1994, one estuary on the Gulf of Mexico coast in 1994, and one site on the Pacific coast of the USA in 1994. Dispersal of A. tonsa was shown to be restricted, with significant population genetic structuring between different estuaries. For all but the closely-adjacent MA and RI samples, frequencies of haplotypes and/or length polymorphisms within one haplotype (caused by insertion/deletion mutations) revealed highly significant genetic differentiation and geographic isolation. Mt16S haplotypes of A. tonsa from Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico estuaries were assorted among four deeply-diverged clades. Haplotypes within each clade differed by <2%, while differences among clades of 10% to 14% approached those between described Acartia species (e.g., 19% to 28% among A. clausi, A. hudsonica, and A. longiremis). Atlantic and Pacific coast samples identified as A. tonsa had no haplotypes in common and genetic differences between haplotypes ranged from 18% to 29%; phylogenetic analysis supported the separation of Pacific coast A. tonsa as a distinct species. We hypothesize that the observed patterns of molecular genetic diversity and structure of A. tonsa resulted from responses to historical climatic variation, including episodic range compression and displacement, and alteration of NW Atlantic coastal and estuarine environments.