The copper rockfish is a benthic, nonmigratory, temperate rocky reef marine species with pelagic larvae and juveniles. A previous range-wide study of the population-genetic structure of copper rockfish revealed a pattern consistent with isolation-by-distance. This could arise from an intrinsically limited dispersal capability in the species or from regularly–spaced extrinsic barriers that restrict gene flow (offshore jets that advect larvae offshore and/or habitat patchiness). Tissue samples were collected along the West Coast of the contiguous USA between Neah Bay, WA and San Diego, CA, with dense sampling along Oregon. At the whole-coast scale (~2200 km), significant population subdivision (FST = 0.0042), and a significant correlation between genetic and geographical distance were observed based on 11 microsatellite DNA loci. Population divergence was also significant among Oregon collections (~450 km, FST = 0.001). Hierarchical amova identified a weak but significant 130-km habitat break as a possible barrier to gene flow within Oregon, across which we estimated that dispersal (Nem) is half that of the coast-wide average. However, individual-based Bayesian analyses failed to identify more than a single population along the Oregon coast. In addition, no correlation between pairwise population genetic and geographical distances was detected at this scale. The offshore jet at Cape Blanco was not a significant barrier to gene flow in this species. These findings are consistent with low larval dispersal distances calculated in previous studies on this species, support a mesoscale dispersal model, and highlight the importance of continuity of habitat and adult population size in maintaining gene flow.
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