Genetic differentiation, hybridization and adaptive divergence in two subspecies of the acorn barnacle Tetraclita japonica in the northwestern Pacific


Correspondence: K. H. Chu, Fax: +852–26035391; E-mail:


Two acorn barnacles, Tetraclita japonica japonica and Tetraclita japonica formosana, have been recently reclassified as two subspecies, because they are morphologically similar and genetically indistinguishable in mitochondrial DNA sequences. The two barnacles are distinguishable by parietes colour and exhibit parapatric distributions, coexisting in Japan, where T. j. formosana is very low in abundance. Here we investigated the genetic differentiation between the subspecies using 209 polymorphic amplified fragment length polymorphism markers and 341 individuals from 12 locations. The subspecies are genetically highly differentiated (ΦCT = 0.267). Bayesian analysis and principal component analysis indicate the presence of hybrids in T. j. formosana samples from Japan. Strong differentiation between the northern and southern populations of T. j. japonica was revealed, and a break between Taiwan and Okinawa was also found in T. j. formosana. The differentiation between the two taxa at individual loci does not deviate from neutral expectation, suggesting that the oceanographic pattern which restricts larval dispersal is a more important factor than divergent selection in maintaining genetic and phenotypic differentiation. The T. j. formosana in Japan are probably recent migrants from Okinawa, and their presence in Japan may represent a poleward range shift driven by global warming. This promotes hybridization and might lead to a breakdown of the boundary between the subspecies. However, both local adaptation and larval dispersal are crucial in determining the population structure within each subspecies. Our study provides new insights into the interplay of local adaptation and dispersal in determining the distribution and genetic structure of intertidal biota and the biogeography of the northwestern Pacific.