• Austrolittorina;
  • mtDNA;
  • oceanic dispersal;
  • pelagic larvae;
  • phylogeography;
  • population structure;
  • Scutus;
  • vicariance


Aim  Recent genetic and ecological studies of marine invertebrate species with planktotrophic larvae have inferred high rates of gene flow across wide oceanic barriers. We therefore aim to test for the genetic signature of long-distance dispersal in two widespread and abundant marine gastropod taxa.

Location  The intertidal and shallow subtidal zones of southern Australia and New Zealand (NZ), which house similar marine invertebrate assemblages despite being separated by the 2000-km-wide Tasman Sea.

Methods  We used mtDNA cytochrome oxidase I gene sequence analysis of two gastropod genera exhibiting trans-Tasman distributions, namely Austrolittorina (Littorinidae) (139 specimens; 28 localities) and Scutus (Fissurellidae) (154 specimens; 32 localities). The cool-temperate Australian (A. unifasciata; S. antipodes) and NZ (A. antipodum; S. breviculus) taxa within each genus are morphologically similar but of uncertain taxonomic status.

Results  The mtDNA analyses indicate major trans-Tasman genetic discontinuities for both gastropod genera, with no evidence of recent or ongoing intercontinental gene flow. Although both Scutus and Austrolittorina show significant east–west structure within southern Australia – consistent with recent studies of regional marine phylogeography – neither taxon exhibits significant differentiation within NZ.

Main conclusions  Morphologically conserved but biogeographically disjunct gastropod populations may exhibit striking phylogeographic discontinuities, even when dispersal abilities appear to be high. On the basis of these data we reject recent calls for the synonymy of NZ and Australian lineages.