Comparative population genetics of seven notothenioid fish species reveals high levels of gene flow along ocean currents in the southern Scotia Arc, Antarctica
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The Antarctic fish fauna is characterized by high endemism and low species diversity with one perciform suborder, the Notothenioidei, dominating the whole species assemblage on the shelves and slopes. Notothenioids diversified in situ through adaptive radiation and show a variety of life history strategies as adults ranging from benthic to pelagic modes. Their larval development is unusually long, lasting from a few months to more than a year, and generally includes a pelagic larval stage. Therefore, the advection of eggs and larvae with ocean currents is a key factor modulating population connectivity. Here, we compare the genetic population structures and gene flow of seven ecologically distinct notothenioid species of the southern Scotia Arc based on nuclear microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA sequences (D-loop/cytochrome b). The seven species belong to the families Nototheniidae (Gobionotothen gibberifrons, Lepidonotothen squamifrons, Trematomus eulepidotus, T. newnesi) and Channichthyidae (Chaenocephalus aceratus, Champsocephalus gunnari, Chionodraco rastrospinosus). Our results show low-population differentiation and high gene flow for all investigated species independent of their adult life history strategies. In addition, gene flow is primarily in congruence with the prevailing ocean current system, highlighting the role of larval dispersal in population structuring of notothenioids.