Get access

Fine-scale genetic structure overrides macro-scale structure in a marine snail: nonrandom recruitment, demographic events or selection?




The planktotrophic littorinid species Littoraria flava occupies a continuous habitat on rocky shores close to brackish and freshwater sources. Previous studies of this species have shown a moderate genetic structure over a broad geographical scale, with high deviations from Hardy–Weinberg expectations in many allozymic loci. Local-scale subdivision in marine species with a long dispersal phase is unexpected, but occasionally found. Using a horizontal transect at three locations, we examined whether microscale and short-term subdivision also occurred in L. flava populations and, if so, whether this could explain the Hardy–Weinberg deviations. Littoraria flava showed even more structuring on a microgeographical scale (4–300 m) than on a large-scale (> 200 km). The Ewens–Watterson neutrality test showed that 18% of the tests deviated significantly from the neutrality model. A homogeneity test for each locus across samples within transects showed homogeneous and high FIS values in many loci. These results and the apparent genetic patchiness within transects suggest that asynchronous spawning associated with recurrent colonizations in L. flava can explain the local differentiation without a recognizable pattern. In addition, there could be a balance between these factors and diversifying selection acting on different loci at different times and localities. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 91, 23–36.