Biophysical connectivity explains population genetic structure in a highly dispersive marine species

Nathan K. Truelove, Andrew S. Kough, Donald C. Behringer, Claire B. Paris, Stephen J. Box, Richard F. Preziosi, Mark J. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Connectivity, the exchange of individuals among locations, is a fundamental ecological process that explains how otherwise disparate populations interact. For most marine organisms, dispersal occurs primarily during a pelagic larval phase that connects populations. We paired population structure from comprehensive genetic sampling and biophysical larval transport modeling to describe how spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) population differentiation is related to biological oceanography. A total of 581 lobsters were genotyped with 11 microsatellites from ten locations around the greater Caribbean. The overall FST of 0.0016 (P = 0.005) suggested low yet significant levels of structuring among sites. An isolation by geographic distance model did not explain spatial patterns of genetic differentiation in P. argus (P = 0.19; Mantel r = 0.18), whereas a biophysical connectivity model provided a significant explanation of population differentiation (P = 0.04; Mantel r = 0.47). Thus, even for a widely dispersing species, dispersal occurs over a continuum where basin-wide larval retention creates genetic structure. Our study provides a framework for future explorations of wide-scale larval dispersal and marine connectivity by integrating empirical genetic research and probabilistic modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Biophysical model
  • Connectivity
  • Conservation
  • Genetics
  • Spiny lobster

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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