We assayed mtDNA haplotype [300 base pairs (bp) control region] geography and genealogy in the Indo-Pacific tasselfish, Polynemus sheridani from its contiguous estuarine distribution across northern Australia (n = 169). Eight estuaries were sampled from three oceanographic regions (Timor Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria and the Coral Sea) to assess the impact of Pleistocene sea level changes on the historical connectivity among P. sheridani populations. Specifically, we investigated the genetic consequences of disruption to Indian-Pacific Ocean connectivity brought about by the closure of the Torres Strait. Overall there was significant population subdivision among estuaries (FST = 0.161, ΦST = 0.187). Despite a linear distribution, P. sheridani did not show isolation by distance over the entire sampled range because of genetic similarity of estuaries greater than 3000 km apart. However, significant isolation by distance was detected between estuaries separated by less than 3000 km of coastline. Unlike many genetic studies of Indo–Pacific marine species, there was no evidence for an historical division between eastern and western populations. Instead, phylogeographical patterns were dominated by a starlike intraspecific phylogeny coupled with evidence for population expansion in both the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Coral Sea but not the Timor Sea. This was interpreted as evidence for recent west to east recolonization across of northern Australia following the last postglacial marine advance. We argue that although sufficient time has elapsed postcolonization for populations to approach gene flow-drift equilibrium over smaller spatial scales (< 3000 km), the signal of historical colonization persists to obscure the expected equilibrium pattern of isolation by distance over large spatial scales (> 3000 km).
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