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Effects of geography and life history traits on genetic differentiation in benthic marine fishes


  • Cynthia Riginos,

  • Kristin E. Douglas,

  • Young Jin,

  • Danielle F. Shanahan,

  • Eric A. Treml

C. Riginos (, K. E. Douglas, Y. Jin, D. F. Shanahan and E. A. Treml, School of Biological Sciences, The Univ. of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia.


Dispersal of planktonic larvae can create connections between geographically separated adult populations of benthic marine animals. How geographic context and life history traits affect these connections is largely unresolved. We use data from genetic studies (species level FST) of benthic teleost fishes combined with linear models to evaluate the importance of transitions between biogeographic regions, geographic distance, egg type (benthic or pelagic eggs), pelagic larval duration (PLD), and type of genetic marker as factors affecting differentiation within species. We find that transitions between biogeographic regions and egg type are significant and consistent contributors to population genetic structure, whereas PLD does not significantly explain population structure. Total study distance frequently contributes to significant interaction terms, particularly in association with genetic markers, whereby FST increases with study distance for studies employing mtDNA sequences, but allozyme and microsatellite studies show no increase in FST with study distance. These results highlight the importance of spatial context (biogeography and geographic distance) in affecting genetic differentiation and imply that there are inherent differences in dispersal ability associated with egg type. We also find that the geographic distance over which the maximum pairwise FST between populations occurs (relative to total study distance) is highly variable and can be observed at any scale. This result is consistent with stochastic processes inflating genetic differentiation and/or insufficient consideration of geographic and biological factors relevant to connectivity.