Skip to main content

Historic and contemporary biogeographic perspectives on range-wide spatial genetic structure in a widespread seagrass

Cite this dataset

Sinclair, Elizabeth A. et al. (2023). Historic and contemporary biogeographic perspectives on range-wide spatial genetic structure in a widespread seagrass [Dataset]. Dryad.


This raw data set contains multilocus genotypes for 1,312 individual samples from 44 locations.

Aim: Historical and contemporary processes drive spatial patterns of genetic diversity. These include climate-driven range shifts and gene flow mediated by biogeographical influences on dispersal. Assessments that integrate these drivers are uncommon, but critical for testing biogeographic hypotheses. Here, we characterise intraspecific genetic diversity and its spatial structure across the entire distribution of a temperate seagrass to test marine biogeographic concepts for southern Australia.

Location: Temperate Australian coastal waters

Methods: Predictive modelling was used to contrast the current Posidonia australis distribution to its historical distribution during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Spatial genetic structure was estimated for 44 sampled meadows from across the geographical range of the species using nine microsatellite loci. 

Results: Historical and contemporary distributions were similar, with the exception of the Bass Strait. Genetic clustering was consistent with the three currently recognised biogeographic provinces and largely consistent with the finer-scale IMCRA bioregions. Discrepancies were found within the Flindersian province and southwest IMCRA bioregion, while two regions of admixture coincided with transitional bioregions. Clonal diversity was highly variable, but positively associated with latitude. Genetic differentiation among meadows was significantly associated with oceanographic distance.

Main conclusions: Our approach suggests how shared seascape drivers have influenced the capacity of P. australis to effectively track sea level changes associated with natural climate cycles over millennia, and in particular, the recolonisation of meadows across the Continental Shelf following the LGM. Genetic structure associated with IMCRA bioregions reflects the presence of stable biogeographic barriers, such as oceanic upwellings. This study highlights the importance of biogeography to infer the role of historical drivers in shaping extant diversity and structure.  


Ribbon weed (Posidonia australis Hook.f.), a widespread temperate seagrass, was sampled from across its distribution. This includes ~5000 km of the west, south, and east Australian coastlines. Field methods and laboratory methods have been described in earlier publications:

Sinclair EA, Krauss SL, Anthony JM, Hovey RK, Kendrick GA (2014) The interaction of environment and genetic diversity within meadows of the seagrass Posidonia australis (Posidoniaceae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 506: 87-98.

Sinclair EA, Anthony J, Coupland GT, Waycott M, Barrett MD, Barrett RL, Cambridge ML, Wallace MJ, Dixon KW, Krauss SL, Kendrick GA (2009) Characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite markers in the widespread Australian seagrass, Posidonia australis Hook. f. (Posidoniaceae), with cross-amplification in the sympatric P. sinuosaConservation Genetics Resources 1: 273-276.


Australian Research Council, Award: LP100200429

Australian Research Council, Award: LP130100918

Australian Research Council, Award: DP180100668

Australian Research Council, Award: DP210101932