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Population assignment tests uncover rare long-distance larval dispersal events

Cite this dataset

D'Aloia, Cassidy; Bogdanowicz, Steven; Andres, Jose; Buston, Peter (2021). Population assignment tests uncover rare long-distance larval dispersal events [Dataset]. Dryad.


Long-distance dispersal (LDD) is consequential to metapopulation ecology and evolution. In systems where dispersal is undertaken by small propagules, such as larvae in the ocean, documenting LDD is especially challenging. Genetic parentage analysis has gained traction as a method for measuring larval dispersal, but such studies are generally spatially limited, leaving LDD understudied in marine species. We addressed this knowledge gap by uncovering LDD with population assignment tests in the coral reef fish Elacatinus lori—a species whose short-distance dispersal has been well-characterized by parentage analysis. When adults (n = 931) collected throughout the species’ range were categorized into three source populations, assignment accuracy exceeded 99%, demonstrating low rates of connectivity between populations in the adult generation. After establishing high assignment confidence, we assigned settlers (n = 3,828) to source populations. Within the settler cohort, < 0.1% of individuals were identified as long-distance dispersers from other populations. These results demonstrate an exceptionally low level of connectivity between E. lori populations, despite the potential for ocean currents to facilitate LDD. More broadly, these findings illustrate the value of combining genetic parentage analysis and population assignment tests to uncover short- and long-distance dispersal, respectively.

Usage notes

Formatted GeneClass2 genotype tables can be directly imported into the GeneClass2 GUI. These files use GenePop formatting and 000000 indicates missing data at a locus.

Formatted rubias genotype input files can be read into the associated R code (uploaded as part of this data set). Missing data are specified as NA at a locus.


National Science Foundation, Award: OCE-1260424