• biodiversity;
  • bivalve;
  • community ecology;
  • ecosystem function;
  • genetic variance;
  • marine invertebrate;
  • oyster;
  • rocky reef


  1. We are now beginning to understand the role of intraspecific diversity on fundamental ecological phenomena. There exists a paucity of knowledge, however, regarding how intraspecific, or genetic diversity, may covary with other important factors such as propagule pressure.
  2. A combination of theoretical modelling and experimentation was used to explore the way propagule pressure and genetic richness may interact. We compare colonization rates of the Australian bivalve Saccostrea glomerata (Gould 1885). We cross propagule size and genetic richness in a factorial design in order to examine the generalities of our theoretical model.
  3. Modelling showed that diversity and propagule pressure should generally interact synergistically when positive feedbacks occur (e.g. aggregation). The strength of genotype effects depended on propagule size, or the numerical abundance of arriving individuals. When propagule size was very small (<4 individuals), however, greater genetic richness unexpectedly reduced colonization.
  4. The probability of S. glomerata colonization was 76% in genetically rich, larger propagules, almost 39 percentage points higher than in genetically poor propagules of similar size. This pattern was not observed in less dense, smaller propagules. We predict that density-dependent interactions between larvae in the water column may explain this pattern.