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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • dispersal;
  • SNPs

The dispersal capabilities of intertidal organisms may represent a key factor to their survival in the face of global warming, as species that cannot adapt to the various effects of climate change will have to migrate to track suitable habitat. Although species with pelagic larval phases might be expected to have a greater capacity for dispersal than those with benthic larvae, interspecies comparisons have shown that this is not always the case. Consequently, population genetic approaches are being increasingly used to gain insights into dispersal through studying patterns of gene flow. In the present study, we used nuclear single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing to elucidate fine-scale patterns of genetic variation between populations of the Black Katy Chiton, Katharina tunicata, separated by 15–150 km in south-west Vancouver Island. Both the nuclear and mitochondrial data sets revealed no genetic differentiation between the populations studied, and an isolation-with-migration analysis indicated extensive local-scale gene flow, suggesting an absence of barriers to dispersal. Population demographic analysis also revealed long-term population stability through previous periods of climate change associated with the Pleistocene glaciations. Together, the findings of the present study suggest that this high potential for dispersal may allow K. tunicata to respond to current global warming by tracking suitable habitat, consistent with its long-term demographic stability through previous changes in the Earth's climate. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 106, 589–597.