Recent climate change has triggered profound reorganization in northeast Atlantic ecosystems, with substantial impact on the distribution of marine assemblages from plankton to fishes. However, assessing the repercussions on apex marine predators remains a challenging issue, especially for pelagic species. In this study, we use Bayesian coalescent modelling of microsatellite variation to track the population demographic history of one of the smallest temperate cetaceans, the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in European waters. Combining genetic inferences with palaeo-oceanographic and historical records provides strong evidence that populations of harbour porpoises have responded markedly to the recent climate-driven reorganization in the eastern North Atlantic food web. This response includes the isolation of porpoises in Iberian waters from those further north only approximately 300 years ago with a predominant northward migration, contemporaneous with the warming trend underway since the ‘Little Ice Age’ period and with the ongoing retreat of cold-water fishes from the Bay of Biscay. The extinction or exodus of harbour porpoises from the Mediterranean Sea (leaving an isolated relict population in the Black Sea) has lacked a coherent explanation. The present results suggest that the fragmentation of harbour distribution range in the Mediterranean Sea was triggered during the warm ‘Mid-Holocene Optimum’ period (approx. 5000 years ago), by the end of the post-glacial nutrient-rich ‘Sapropel’ conditions that prevailed before that time.
cetacean; climate change; habitat fragmentation; population genetics; coalescence
Identifying which factors shape the distribution of intraspecific genetic diversity is central in evolutionary and conservation biology. In the marine realm, the absence of obvious barriers to dispersal can make this task more difficult. Nevertheless, recent studies have provided valuable insights into which factors may be shaping genetic structure in the world's oceans. These studies were, however, generally conducted on marine organisms with larval dispersal. Here, using a seascape genetics approach, we show that marine productivity and sea surface temperature are correlated with genetic structure in a highly mobile, widely distributed marine mammal species, the short-beaked common dolphin. Isolation by distance also appears to influence population divergence over larger geographical scales (i.e. across different ocean basins). We suggest that the relationship between environmental variables and population structure may be caused by prey behaviour, which is believed to determine common dolphins' movement patterns and preferred associations with certain oceanographic conditions. Our study highlights the role of oceanography in shaping genetic structure of a highly mobile and widely distributed top marine predator. Thus, seascape genetic studies can potentially track the biological effects of ongoing climate-change at oceanographic interfaces and also inform marine reserve design in relation to the distribution and genetic connectivity of charismatic and ecologically important megafauna.
Most harbour porpoises found dead on the north-east coast of Scotland show signs of attack by sympatric bottlenose dolphins, but the reason(s) for these violent interactions remain(s) unclear. Post-mortem examinations of stranded bottlenose dolphins indicate that five out of eight young calves from this same area were also killed by bottlenose dolphins. These data, together with direct observations of an aggressive interaction between an adult bottlenose dolphin and a dead bottlenose dolphin calf, provide strong evidence for infanticide in this population. The similarity in the size range of harbour porpoises and dolphin calves that showed signs of attack by bottlenose dolphins suggests that previously reported interspecific interactions could be related to this infanticidal behaviour. These findings appear to provide the first evidence of infanticide in cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). We suggest that infanticide must be considered as a factor shaping sociality in this and other species of cetaceans, and may have serious consequences for the viability of small populations.
Genetic analyses of population structure can be placed in explicit environmental contexts if appropriate environmental data are available. Here, we use high-coverage and high-resolution oceanographic and genetic sequence data to assess population structure patterns and their potential environmental influences for humpback dolphins in the Western Indian Ocean. We analyzed mitochondrial DNA data from 94 dolphins from the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Oman, employing frequency-based and maximum-likelihood algorithms to assess population structure and migration patterns. The genetic data were combined with 13 years of remote sensing oceanographic data of variables known to influence cetacean dispersal and population structure. Our analyses show strong and highly significant genetic structure between all putative populations, except for those in South Africa and Mozambique. Interestingly, the oceanographic data display marked environmental heterogeneity between all sampling areas and a degree of overlap between South Africa and Mozambique. Our combined analyses therefore suggest the occurrence of genetically isolated populations of humpback dolphins in areas that are environmentally distinct. This study highlights the utility of molecular tools in combination with high-resolution and high-coverage environmental data to address questions not only pertaining to genetic population structure, but also to relevant ecological processes in marine species.
population structure; remote sensing; environmental drivers
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are widely distributed and a high degree of morphometric and genetic differentiation has been found among both allopatric and parapatric populations. We analysed 145 samples along a contiguous distributional range from the Black Sea to the eastern North Atlantic for mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity, and found population structure with boundaries that coincided with transitions between habitat regions. These regions can be characterized by ocean floor topography, and oceanographic features such as surface salinity, productivity and temperature. At the extremes of this range there was evidence for the directional emigration of females. Bi-parentally inherited markers did not show this directional bias in migration, suggesting a different dispersal strategy for males and females at range margins. However, comparative assessment based on mitochondrial DNA and nuclear markers indicated that neither sex showed a strong bias for greater dispersal on average. These data imply a mechanism for the evolutionary structuring of populations based on local habitat dependence for both males and females.
bottlenose dolphin; population genetics; Mediterranean Sea; Black Sea; sex-biased dispersal
Field surveys have reported a global shift in harbour porpoise distribution in European waters during the last 15 years, including a return to the Atlantic coasts of France. In this study, we analyzed genetic polymorphisms at a fragment of the mitochondrial control region (mtDNA CR) and 7 nuclear microsatellite loci, for 52 animals stranded and by-caught between 2000 and 2010 along the Atlantic coasts of France. The analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial loci provided contrasting results. The mtDNA revealed two genetically distinct groups, one closely related to the Iberian and African harbour porpoises, and the second related to individuals from the more northern waters of Europe. In contrast, nuclear polymorphisms did not display such a distinction. Nuclear markers suggested that harbour porpoises behaved as a randomly mating population along the Atlantic coasts of France. The difference between the two kinds of markers can be explained by differences in their mode of inheritance, the mtDNA being maternally inherited in contrast to nuclear loci that are bi-parentally inherited. Our results provide evidence that a major proportion of the animals we sampled are admixed individuals from the two genetically distinct populations previously identified along the Iberian coasts and in the North East Atlantic. The French Atlantic coasts are clearly the place where these two previously separated populations of harbour porpoises are now admixing. The present shifts in distribution of harbour porpoises along this coast is likely caused by habitat changes that will need to be further studied.
Observing and monitoring the underwater social interactions of cetaceans is challenging. Therefore, previous cetacean studies have monitored these interactions by surface observations. However, because cetaceans spend most of their time underwater, it is important that their underwater behavior is also continuously monitored to better understand their social relationships and social structure. The finless porpoise is small and has no dorsal fin. It is difficult to observe this species in the wild, and little is known of its sociality.
The swim depths of 6 free-ranging finless porpoises were simultaneously recorded using a time-synchronized bio-logging system. Synchronous diving was used as an index of association. Two pairs, #27 (an immature female estimated to be 3.5 years old) and #32 (an adult male), #28 (a juvenile male estimated to be 2 years old) and #29 (an adult male), tended to participate in long periods of synchronized diving more frequently than 13 other possible pairs, indicating that the 4 porpoises chose their social partners. The adult males (#32, #29) tended to follow the immature female (#27) and juvenile male (#28), respectively. However, during synchronized diving, the role of an initiator often changed within the pair, and their body movements appeared to be non-agonistic, e.g., rubbing of bodies against one another instead of that on one-side, as observed with chasing and escaping behaviors.
The present study employed a time-synchronized bio-logging method to observe the social relationships of free-ranging aquatic animals based on swimming depth. The results suggest that certain individuals form associations even if they are not a mother and calf pair. Long synchronized dives occurred when particular members were reunited, and this suggests that the synchronized dives were not a by-product of opportunistic aggregation.
The effects of climate change on marine ecosystems and in particular on marine top predators are difficult to assess due to, among other things, spatial variability, and lack of clear delineation of marine habitats. The banks of West Greenland are located in a climate sensitive area and are likely to elicit pronounced responses to oceanographic changes in the North Atlantic. The recent increase in sea temperatures on the banks of West Greenland has had cascading effects on sea ice coverage, residency of top predators, and abundance of important prey species like Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Here, we report on the response of one of the top predators in West Greenland; the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). The porpoises depend on locating high densities of prey species with high nutritive value and they have apparently responded to the general warming on the banks of West Greenland by longer residence times, increased consumption of Atlantic cod resulting in improved body condition in the form of larger fat deposits in blubber, compared to the situation during a cold period in the 1990s. This is one of the few examples of a measurable effect of climate change on a marine mammal population.
Climate change; harbour porpoise; west greenland; body condition; Atlantic cod
Testing connectivity among populations of exploited marine fish is a main concern for the development of conservation strategies. Even though marine species are often considered to display low levels of population structure, barriers to dispersal found in the marine realm may restrict gene flow and cause genetic divergence of populations. The Pacific Sierra mackerel (Scomberomorus sierra) is a pelagic fish species distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the eastern Pacific. Seasonal spawning in different areas across the species range, as well as a limited dispersal, may result in a population genetic structure. Identification of genetically discrete units is important in the proper conservation of the fishery.
Samples collected from the Eastern Pacific, including the areas of main abundance of the species, presented high levels of mtDNA genetic diversity and a highly significant divergence. At least two genetically discrete groups were detected in the northern (Sinaloa) and central areas (Oaxaca and Chiapas) of the species range, exhibiting slight genetic differences with respect to the samples collected in the southern region (Peru), together with a "chaotic genetic patchiness" pattern of differentiation and no evidence of isolation by distance. Historical demographic parameters supported the occurrence of past population expansions, whereas the divergence times between populations coincided with the occurrence of glacial maxima some 220 000 years ago.
The population genetic structure detected for the Pacific Sierra mackerel is associated with a limited dispersal between the main abundance areas that are usually linked to the spawning sites of the species. Population expansions have coincided with glacial-interglacial episodes in the Pleistocene, but they may also be related to the increase in the SST and with upwelling areas in the EEP since the early Pleistocene.
Predicting the strength and context-dependency of species interactions across multiple scales is a core area in ecology. This is especially challenging in the marine environment, where populations of most predators and prey are generally open, because of their pelagic larval phase, and recruitment of both is highly variable. In this study we use a comparative-experimental approach on small and large spatial scales to test the relationship between predation intensity and prey recruitment and their relative importance in shaping populations of a dominant rocky intertidal space occupier, mussels, in the context of seascape (availability of nearby subtidal reef habitat). Predation intensity on transplanted mussels was tested inside and outside cages and recruitment was measured with standard larval settlement collectors. We found that on intertidal rocky benches with contiguous subtidal reefs in New Zealand, mussel larval recruitment is usually low but predation on recruits by subtidal consumers (fish, crabs) is intense during high tide. On nearby intertidal rocky benches with adjacent sandy subtidal habitats, larval recruitment is usually greater but subtidal predators are typically rare and predation is weaker. Multiple regression analysis showed that predation intensity accounts for most of the variability in the abundance of adult mussels compared to recruitment. This seascape-dependent, predation-recruitment relationship could scale up to explain regional community variability. We argue that community ecology models should include seascape context-dependency and its effects on recruitment and species interactions for better predictions of coastal community dynamics and structure.
The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is economically one of the world's most important marine species--a species presently suffering from heavy overexploitation throughout its range of distribution. Although not fully understood, the Atlantic cod is believed to be structured into populations in a rather complex manner, whereby both highly migratory and more confined ocean-spawning stocks coexist with stationary coastal populations. Owing to the complex population structure, little is presently known about how overexploitation of offshore stocks may affect other segments of the species. Here, we use microsatellite DNA analyses of coastal and offshore cod in combination with oceanographic modelling to investigate the population structure of Atlantic cod in the North Sea-Skagerrak area and evaluate the potential for larval transport into coastal populations. Our results suggest an extensive but temporally variable drift of offshore cod larvae into coastal populations. In a year (2001) with high inflow of North Sea waters into the Skagerrak we find that juvenile cod caught along the Skagerrak coast are predominantly of North Sea origin, whereas in a year (2000) with low inflow juveniles appear to be of local origin. These findings indicate that offshore cod may influence coastal cod populations over large distances.
Coastal protection measures are planned and executed worldwide to combat the effects of global warming and climate change, in particular the acceleration of sea level rise, higher storm surge flooding and extensive coastal inundation. The extent to which these defensive measures may impact coastal and estuarine ecosystems is still poorly understood. Since the building of a storm surge barrier, movement of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena in and out of the Eastern Scheldt tidal bay (SW-Netherlands) may be limited. To measure residency, porpoises stranded along the Dutch North Sea coast between 2006 and 2008 were sampled for muscle (n = 102) and bone tissue (n = 118), of which 9 muscle (8.8%) and 12 bone samples (10.2%) were collected from animals stranded within the Eastern Scheldt. Stable carbon (δ13C) was analysed to get insight into the habitat use and residency of porpoises in the Eastern Scheldt. Our data showed significantly higher δ13C values in the muscle of porpoises stranded within the Eastern Scheldt (µ = −17.7‰, SD = 0.4‰) compared to animals stranded along the Dutch coast (µ = −18.3‰, SD = 0.5‰). This suggests that most porpoises stranded in the Eastern Scheldt foraged there for a longer period. The distinct δ13C signature of animals from the Eastern Scheldt was not observed in bone tissue, suggesting a relatively recent shift in habitat use rather than life-long residency of porpoises within the Eastern Scheldt. The high number of strandings within the Eastern Scheldt suggests a higher mortality rate compared to the Dutch coastal zone. Our study indicates that along with other changes in the physical environment, the storm surge barrier may play an important role in determining the residency of porpoises in the Eastern Scheldt, and that the area might act as an ecological trap for porpoises entering it.
Sea ice is believed to be a major factor shaping gene flow for polar marine organisms, but it remains unclear to what extent it represents a true barrier to dispersal for arctic cetaceans. Bowhead whales are highly adapted to polar sea ice and were targeted by commercial whalers throughout Arctic and subarctic seas for at least four centuries, resulting in severe reductions in most areas. Both changing ice conditions and reductions due to whaling may have affected geographic distribution and genetic diversity throughout their range, but little is known about range-wide genetic structure or whether it differed in the past. This study represents the first examination of genetic diversity and differentiation across all five putative stocks, including Baffin Bay-Davis Strait, Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin, Bering-Beaufort-Chukchi, Okhotsk, and Spitsbergen. We also utilized ancient specimens from Prince Regent Inlet (PRI) in the Canadian Arctic and compared them with modern stocks. Results from analysis of molecular variance and demographic simulations are consistent with recent and high gene flow between Atlantic and Pacific stocks in the recent past. Significant genetic differences between ancient and modern populations suggest PRI harbored unique maternal lineages in the past that have been recently lost, possibly due to loss of habitat during the Little Ice Age and/or whaling. Unexpectedly, samples from this location show a closer genetic relationship with modern Pacific stocks than Atlantic, supporting high gene flow between the central Canadian Arctic and Beaufort Sea over the past millennium despite extremely heavy ice cover over much of this period.
Ancient DNA; arctic; cetacean; marine mammal; mitochondrial DNA; whaling
Oceanography and life-history characteristics are known to influence the genetic structure of marine species, however the relative role that these factors play in shaping phylogeographic patterns remains unresolved. The population genetic structure of the endemic, rocky shore dwelling Caffrogobius caffer was investigated across a known major oceanographic barrier, Cape Agulhas, which has previously been shown to strongly influence genetic structuring of South African rocky shore and intertidal marine organisms. Given the variable and dynamic oceanographical features of the region, we further sought to test how the pattern of gene flow between C. caffer populations is affected by the dominant Agulhas and Benguela current systems of the southern oceans.
The variable 5' region of the mtDNA control region was amplified for 242 individuals from ten localities spanning the distributional range of C. caffer. Fifty-five haplotypes were recovered and in stark contrast to previous phylogeographic studies of South African marine species, C. caffer showed no significant population genetic structuring along 1300 km of coastline. The parsimony haplotype network, AMOVA and SAMOVA analyses revealed panmixia. Coalescent analyses reveal that gene flow in C. caffer is strongly asymmetrical and predominantly affected by the Agulhas Current. Notably, there was no gene flow between the east coast and all other populations, although all other analyses detect no significant population structure, suggesting a recent divergence. The mismatch distribution suggests that C. caffer underwent a population expansion at least 14 500 years ago.
We propose several possible life-history adaptations that could have enabled C. caffer to maintain gene flow across its distributional range, including a long pelagic larval stage. We have shown that life-history characteristics can be an important contributing factor to the phylogeography of marine species and that the effects of oceanography do not necessarily suppress its influence on effective dispersal.
The present study describes the organization of the orexinergic (hypocretinergic) neurons in the hypothalamus of the giraffe and harbour porpoise – two members of the mammalian Order Cetartiodactyla which is comprised of the even-toed ungulates and the cetaceans as they share a monophyletic ancestry. Diencephalons from two sub-adult male giraffes and two adult male harbour porpoises were coronally sectioned and immunohistochemically stained for orexin-A. The staining revealed that the orexinergic neurons could be readily divided into two distinct neuronal types based on somal volume, area and length, these being the parvocellular and magnocellular orexin-A immunopositive (OxA+) groups. The magnocellular group could be further subdivided, on topological grounds, into three distinct clusters – a main cluster in the perifornical and lateral hypothalamus, a cluster associated with the zona incerta and a cluster associated with the optic tract. The parvocellular neurons were found in the medial hypothalamus, but could not be subdivided, rather they form a topologically amorphous cluster. The parvocellular cluster appears to be unique to the Cetartiodactyla as these neurons have not been described in other mammals to date, while the magnocellular nuclei appear to be homologous to similar nuclei described in other mammals. The overall size of both the parvocellular and magnocellular neurons (based on somal volume, area and length) were larger in the giraffe than the harbour porpoise, but the harbour porpoise had a higher number of both parvocellular and magnocellular orexinergic neurons than the giraffe despite both having a similar brain mass. The higher number of both parvocellular and magnocellular orexinergic neurons in the harbour porpoise may relate to the unusual sleep mechanisms in the cetaceans.
Cetartiodactyla; Orexin; Hypocretin; Comparative neuroanatomy; Evolution; Mammalia
The extent of dispersal by pelagic larvae in marine environments, including coral reefs, is central for understanding local population dynamics and designing sustainable marine reserves. We present here the first example of a clear stepping-stone genetic structure throughout the Caribbean basin for a common coral reef species, the French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum). Analysis of microsatellite DNA markers indicated that French grunt population structure may be characterized by overlapping populations throughout the Caribbean, influenced by independent population dynamics but with no fixed geographical boundaries. In addition, different spatial genetic patterns were found in different oceanographic regions. A second species, the bluehead wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum), has a much longer pelagic larval duration than French grunts and showed no explicit spatial pattern of genetic variation. This finding is concordant with the hypothesis of a positive relationship between larval dispersal and duration in the plankton. While the magnitude of the genetic signal of population structure in French grunts was very low (FST≈0.003), the pattern of isolation-by-distance throughout the Caribbean indicated considerable population structure with important ecological and conservation significance.
genetic population structure; microsatellites; coral reef fish dispersal; marine reserves; Haemulon flavolineatum; Thalassoma bifasciatum
Management and conservation can be greatly informed by considering explicitly how environmental factors influence population genetic structure. Using simulated larval dispersal estimates based on ocean current observations, we demonstrate how explicit consideration of frequency of exchange of larvae among sites via ocean advection can fundamentally change the interpretation of empirical population genetic structuring as compared with conventional spatial genetic analyses. Both frequency of larval exchange and empirical genetic difference were uncorrelated with Euclidean distance between sites. When transformed into relative oceanographic distances and integrated into a genetic isolation-by-distance framework, however, the frequency of larval exchange explained nearly 50 per cent of the variance in empirical genetic differences among sites over scales of tens of kilometres. Explanatory power was strongest when we considered effects of multiple generations of larval dispersal via intermediary locations on the long-term probability of exchange between sites. Our results uncover meaningful spatial patterning to population genetic structuring that corresponds with ocean circulation. This study advances our ability to interpret population structure from complex genetic data characteristic of high gene flow species, validates recent advances in oceanographic approaches for assessing larval dispersal and represents a novel approach to characterize population connectivity at small spatial scales germane to conservation and fisheries management.
seascape genetics; dispersal; pelagic larvae; isolation by distance; derived oceanographic distance
Two of the major limitations to effective management of coral reef ecosystems are a lack of information on the spatial distribution of marine species and a paucity of data on the interacting environmental variables that drive distributional patterns. Advances in marine remote sensing, together with the novel integration of landscape ecology and advanced niche modelling techniques provide an unprecedented opportunity to reliably model and map marine species distributions across many kilometres of coral reef ecosystems. We developed a multi-scale approach using three-dimensional seafloor morphology and across-shelf location to predict spatial distributions for five common Caribbean fish species. Seascape topography was quantified from high resolution bathymetry at five spatial scales (5–300 m radii) surrounding fish survey sites. Model performance and map accuracy was assessed for two high performing machine-learning algorithms: Boosted Regression Trees (BRT) and Maximum Entropy Species Distribution Modelling (MaxEnt). The three most important predictors were geographical location across the shelf, followed by a measure of topographic complexity. Predictor contribution differed among species, yet rarely changed across spatial scales. BRT provided ‘outstanding’ model predictions (AUC = >0.9) for three of five fish species. MaxEnt provided ‘outstanding’ model predictions for two of five species, with the remaining three models considered ‘excellent’ (AUC = 0.8–0.9). In contrast, MaxEnt spatial predictions were markedly more accurate (92% map accuracy) than BRT (68% map accuracy). We demonstrate that reliable spatial predictions for a range of key fish species can be achieved by modelling the interaction between the geographical location across the shelf and the topographic heterogeneity of seafloor structure. This multi-scale, analytic approach is an important new cost-effective tool to accurately delineate essential fish habitat and support conservation prioritization in marine protected area design, zoning in marine spatial planning, and ecosystem-based fisheries management.
The mesic habitats of eastern Australia harbour a highly diverse fauna. We examined the impact of climatic oscillations and recognised biogeographic barriers on the evolutionary history of the delicate skink (Lampropholis delicata), a species that occurs in moist habitats throughout eastern Australia. The delicate skink is a common and widespread species whose distribution spans 26° of latitude and nine major biogeographic barriers in eastern Australia. Sequence data were obtained from four mitochondrial genes (ND2, ND4, 12SrRNA, 16SrRNA) for 238 individuals from 120 populations across the entire native distribution of the species. The evolutionary history and diversification of the delicate skink was investigated using a range of phylogenetic (Maximum Likelihood, Bayesian) and phylogeographic analyses (genetic diversity, ΦST, AMOVA, Tajima's D, Fu's F statistic).
Nine geographically structured, genetically divergent clades were identified within the delicate skink. The main clades diverged during the late Miocene-Pliocene, coinciding with the decline and fragmentation of rainforest and other wet forest habitats in eastern Australia. Most of the phylogeographic breaks within the delicate skink were concordant with dry habitat or high elevation barriers, including several recognised biogeographic barriers in eastern Australia (Burdekin Gap, St Lawrence Gap, McPherson Range, Hunter Valley, southern New South Wales). Genetically divergent populations were also located in high elevation topographic isolates inland from the main range of L. delicata (Kroombit Tops, Blackdown Tablelands, Coolah Tops). The species colonised South Australia from southern New South Wales via an inland route, possibly along the Murray River system. There is evidence for recent expansion of the species range across eastern Victoria and into Tasmania, via the Bassian Isthmus, during the late Pleistocene.
The delicate skink is a single widespread, but genetically variable, species. This study provides the first detailed phylogeographic investigation of a widespread species whose distribution spans virtually all of the major biogeographic barriers in eastern Australia.
How do biogeographically different provinces arise in response to oceanic barriers to dispersal? Here, we analyse how traits related to the pelagic dispersal and adult biology of 985 tropical reef fish species correlate with their establishing populations on both sides of two Atlantic marine barriers: the Mid-Atlantic Barrier (MAB) and the Amazon–Orinoco Plume (AOP). Generalized linear mixed-effects models indicate that predictors for successful barrier crossing are the ability to raft with flotsam for the deep-water MAB, non-reef habitat usage for the freshwater and sediment-rich AOP, and large adult-size and large latitudinal-range for both barriers. Variation in larval-development mode, often thought to be broadly related to larval-dispersal potential, is not a significant predictor in either case. Many more species of greater taxonomic diversity cross the AOP than the MAB. Rafters readily cross both barriers but represent a much smaller proportion of AOP crossers than MAB crossers. Successful establishment after crossing both barriers may be facilitated by broad environmental tolerance associated with large body size and wide latitudinal-range. These results highlight the need to look beyond larval-dispersal potential and assess adult-biology traits when assessing determinants of successful movements across marine barriers.
macroecology; biogeographic barriers; Amazon–Orinoco Plume; rafting; larval-development mode; body size
We utilized a spatial and temporal analyses of genetic structure, supplemented with ecological and oceanographic analysis, to assess patterns of population connectivity in a coral reef fish Chromis margaritifer among the unique and remote atolls in the eastern Indian Ocean. A subtle, but significant genetic discontinuity at 10 microsatellite DNA loci was detected between atoll systems corresponding with a low (≤ 1%) probability of advection across the hundreds of kilometers of open ocean that separates them. Thus, although genetic connections between systems are likely maintained by occasional long-distance dispersal of C. margaritifer larvae, ecological population connectivity at this spatial scale appears to be restricted. Further, within one of these atoll systems, significant spatial differentiation among samples was accompanied by a lack of temporal pairwise differentiation between recruit and adult samples, indicating that restrictions to connectivity also occur at a local scale (tens of kilometers). In contrast, a signal of panmixia was detected at the other atoll system studied. Lastly, greater relatedness and reduced genetic diversity within recruit samples was associated with relatively large differences among them, indicating the presence of sweepstakes reproduction whereby a small proportion of adults contributes to recruitment in the next generation. These results are congruent with earlier work on hard corals, suggesting that local production of larvae drives population replenishment in these atoll systems for a range of coral reef species.
Chromis margaritifer; damselfish; dispersal; north-west Australia; population connectivity; sweepstakes reproductive success
Approximately three million years ago the Isthmus of Panama formed an impenetrable land barrier between the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean and the tropical western Atlantic Ocean. Since this time, isolated geminate species have evolved from once contiguous populations, either side of the barrier. One such organism whose distribution is divided by the Isthmus is the tropical brittlestar Ophiactis savignyi, once suggested to be the most common brittlestar in the world. Rather than showing a genetic pattern consistent with a history of isolation, we show that this species has recently dispersed between the Pacific Ocean and the western Atlantic Ocean. This conclusion is based upon a phylogenetic analysis using sequences of the COI mitochondrial DNA gene from these populations. Identical haplotypes between oceans, and a genetic signature of population expansion, provide compelling evidence that the western Atlantic contains at least one cluster of haplotypes recently derived from the Indo-Pacific. Inadvertent human-aided translocation of individuals, presumably in ballast water or fouling communities, is strongly implicated as a mechanism for dispersal between oceans. We believe that cryptic marine invasions are likely to be common and our awareness of them will rapidly increase as systematic and phylogeographic knowledge of marine taxa grow.
The population structure of harbour porpoises from British and adjacent waters was studied by examining variability in a 200 bp (base pair) section of the control region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from 327 animals. This region contained 20 variable sites giving rise to 24 different haplotypes. Mean nucleotide diversity between all pairs of haplotypes was 0.81% (range 0-4%). The most common haplotype occurred in 63% of the samples and was recorded in all geographical areas; several other haplotypes were present in two or more of the sampling locations. This suggests considerable historical interconnections among populations, probably through gene flow. However, there were significant differences (p < 0.05) as determined by AMOVA (Analysis of Molecular Variance, Excoffier et al. 1992), between porpoises from the northern and southern North Sea, and between the northern North Sea and the Celtic/Irish Sea. The differences were predominantly due to variation among females. This sex-related difference in population genetic structure suggests that males disperse more than females. This has important consequences for evaluating the consequences of incidental catches of porpoises by fisheries in these seas since there may be a greater impact on local populations than is implied by simple calculations of mortality.
Large pelagic fishes are generally thought to have little population genetic structuring based on their cosmopolitan distribution, large population sizes and high dispersal capacities. However, gene flow can be influenced by ecological (e.g. homing behaviour) and physical (e.g. present-day ocean currents, past changes in sea temperature and levels) factors. In this regard, Atlantic bigeye tuna shows an interesting genetic structuring pattern with two highly divergent mitochondrial clades (Clades I and II), which are assumed to have been originated during the last Pleistocene glacial maxima. We assess genetic structure patterns of Atlantic bigeye tuna at the nuclear level, and compare them with mitochondrial evidence.
We examined allele size variation of nine microsatellite loci in 380 individuals from the Gulf of Guinea, Canary, Azores, Canada, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. To investigate temporal stability of genetic structure, three Atlantic Ocean sites were re-sampled a second year. Hierarchical AMOVA tests, RST pairwise comparisons, isolation by distance (Mantel) tests, Bayesian clustering analyses, and coalescence-based migration rate inferences supported unrestricted gene flow within the Atlantic Ocean at the nuclear level, and therefore interbreeding between individuals belonging to both mitochondrial clades. Moreover, departures from HWE in several loci were inferred for the samples of Guinea, and attributed to a Wahlund effect supporting the role of this region as a spawning and nursery area. Our microsatellite data supported a single worldwide panmictic unit for bigeye tunas. Despite the strong Agulhas Current, immigration rates seem to be higher from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indo-Pacific Ocean, but the actual number of individuals moving per generation is relatively low compared to the large population sizes inhabiting each ocean basin.
Lack of congruence between mt and nuclear evidences, which is also found in other species, most likely reflects past events of isolation and secondary contact. Given the inferred relatively low number of immigrants per generation around the Cape of Good Hope, the proportions of the mitochondrial clades in the different oceans may keep stable, and it seems plausible that the presence of individuals belonging to the mt Clade I in the Atlantic Ocean may be due to extensive migrations that predated the last glaciation.
Motivation: The computational search for novel microRNA (miRNA) precursors often involves some sort of structural analysis with the aim of identifying which type of structures are prone to being recognized and processed by the cellular miRNA-maturation machinery. A natural way to tackle this problem is to perform clustering over the candidate structures along with known miRNA precursor structures. Mixed clusters allow then the identification of candidates that are similar to known precursors. Given the large number of pre-miRNA candidates that can be identified in single-genome approaches, even after applying several filters for precursor robustness and stability, a conventional structural clustering approach is unfeasible.
Results: We propose a method to represent candidate structures in a feature space, which summarizes key sequence/structure characteristics of each candidate. We demonstrate that proximity in this feature space is related to sequence/structure similarity, and we select candidates that have a high similarity to known precursors. Additional filtering steps are then applied to further reduce the number of candidates to those with greater transcriptional potential. Our method is compared with another single-genome method (TripletSVM) in two datasets, showing better performance in one and comparable performance in the other, for larger training sets. Additionally, we show that our approach allows for a better interpretation of the results.
Availability and Implementation: The MinDist method is implemented using Perl scripts and is freely available at http://www.cravela.org/?mindist=1.
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.