Matching genetics with oceanography: directional gene flow in a Mediterranean fish species


C. Schunter, Fax: +34 972 33 78 06; E-mail:


Genetic connectivity and geographic fragmentation are two opposing mechanisms determining the population structure of species. While the first homogenizes the genetic background across populations the second one allows their differentiation. Therefore, knowledge of processes affecting dispersal of marine organisms is crucial to understand their genetic distribution patterns and for the effective management of their populations. In this study, we use genetic analyses of eleven microsatellites in combination with oceanographic satellite and dispersal simulation data to determine distribution patterns for Serranus cabrilla, a ubiquitous demersal broadcast spawner, in the Mediterranean Sea. Pairwise population FST values ranged between −0.003 and 0.135. Two genetically distinct clusters were identified, with a clear division located between the oceanographic discontinuities at the Ibiza Channel (IC) and the Almeria-Oran Front (AOF), revealing an admixed population in between. The Balearic Front (BF) also appeared to dictate population structure. Directional gene flow on the Spanish coast was observed as S. cabrilla dispersed from west to east over the AOF, from north to south on the IC and from south of the IC towards the Balearic Islands. Correlations between genetic and oceanographic data were highly significant. Seasonal changes in current patterns and the relationship between ocean circulation patterns and spawning season may also play an important role in population structure around oceanographic fronts.