• Longitudinal gradient;
  • ocean current;
  • phylogeography;
  • planktic foraminifer


Evolutionary processes in marine plankton have been assumed to be dependent on the oceanic circulation system, which transports plankton between populations in marine surface waters. Gene flow facilitated by oceanic currents along longitudinal gradients may efficiently impede genetic differentiation of pelagic populations in the absence of confounding marine environmental effects. However, how responsible oceanic currents are for the geographic distribution and dispersal of plankton is poorly understood. We examined the phylogeography of the planktic foraminifer Pulleniatina obliquiloculata in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP) by using partial small subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA) sequences. We found longitudinal clines in the frequencies of three distinct genetic types in the IPWP area. These frequencies were correlated with environmental factors that are characteristic of three water masses in the IPWP. Noteworthy, populations inhabiting longitudinally distant water masses at the Pacific and Indian sides of the IPWP were genetically different, despite transportation of individuals via oceanic currents. These results demonstrate that populations of pelagic plankton have diverged genetically among different water masses within a single climate zone. Changes of the oceanic circulation system could have impacted the geographic patterns of dispersal and divergence of pelagic plankton.