Spatial and temporal scales of adaptive divergence in marine fishes and the implications for conservation


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Knowledge of geographic and temporal scales of adaptive genetic variation is crucial to species conservation, yet understanding of these phenomena, particularly in marine systems, is scant. Until recently, the belief has been that because most marine species have highly dispersive or mobile life stages, local adaptation could occur only on broad geographic scales. This view is supported by comparatively low levels of genetic variation among populations as detected by neutral markers. Similarly, the time scale of adaptive divergence has also been assumed to be very long, requiring thousands of generations. Recent studies of a variety of species have challenged these beliefs. First, there is strong evidence of geographically structured local adaptation in physiological and morphological traits. Second, the proportion of quantitative trait variation at the among-population level (QST) is much higher than it is for neutral markers (FST) and these two metrics of genetic variation are poorly correlated. Third, evidence that selection is a potent evolutionary force capable of sustaining adaptive divergence on contemporary time scales is summarized. The differing spatial and temporal scales of adaptive v. neutral genetic divergence call for a new paradigm in thinking about the relationship between phenogeography (the geography of phenotypic variation) and phylogeography (the geography of lineages) in marine species. The idea that contemporary selective processes can cause fine-scale spatial and temporal divergence underscores the need for a new emphasis on Darwinian fishery science.