Population genetics is a powerful tool for measuring important larval connections between marine populations [1-4]. Similarly, oceanographic models based on environmental data can simulate particle movements in ocean currents and make quantitative estimates of larval connections between populations possible [5-9]. However, these two powerful approaches have remained disconnected because no general models currently provide a means of directly comparing dispersal predictions with empirical genetic data (except, see ). In addition, previous genetic models have considered relatively simple dispersal scenarios that are often unrealistic for marine larvae [11-15], and recent landscape genetic models have yet to be applied in a marine context [16-20]. We have developed a genetic model that uses connectivity estimates from oceanographic models to predict genetic patterns resulting from larval dispersal in a Caribbean coral. We then compare the predictions to empirical data for threatened staghorn corals. Our coupled oceanographic-genetic model predicts many of the patterns observed in this and other empirical datasets; such patterns include the isolation of the Bahamas and an east-west divergence near Puerto Rico [3, 21-23]. This new approach provides both a valuable tool for predicting genetic structure in marine populations and a means of explicitly testing these predictions with empirical data (Figure 1).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)