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Pinpointing genetic breaks in the southeastern Pacific: phylogeography and genetic structure of Pyura chilensis, a commercially important tunicate


Quesada-Calderon, Suany; Giles, Emily C.; Morales-González, Sarai; Saenz-Agudelo, Pablo (2021), Pinpointing genetic breaks in the southeastern Pacific: phylogeography and genetic structure of Pyura chilensis, a commercially important tunicate, Dryad, Dataset,


Aim: Accurate characterization of evolutionary units (species or populations) underlies all ecological and evolutionary studies and is crucial to conservation planning. Seascapes have long been thought to be highly permeable to gene flow, yet over the last decade building evidence has shown that barriers to gene flow in marine environments are much more common than previously thought. Here, we precisely characterize barriers to gene flow in the tunicate Pyura chilensis across 26° of latitude in the southeastern Pacific, assess the magnitude of said barriers, and explore their congruence with current biogeographic patterns of this region.

Location: The southeastern Pacific (SEP), from Ilo, Perú (17ºS) to Chiloe, Chile (43ºS).

Taxon: Pyura chilensis

Methods: We used a combination of highly polymorphic microsatellite markers and a 540 bp fragment of the Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I (COI) to compare individuals sampled at 26 localities spanning approximately 2500 km of the SEP. Genetic diversity was analyzed using Bayesian clustering, haplotype networks, Isolation by Distance, and cline models. Coalescent simulators were used to estimate migration rates.

Results: The results from both the microsatellite and COI markers indicate the presence of two genetic discontinuities: one at 34°S and one at 39°S which coincide with genetic breaks reported for other species. Interestingly, we were able to determine that genetic transitions occur abruptly and within short geographic distances (~ 30 km) compared with previous studies of this tunicate. Coalescent simulations indicate the 34ºS break is less permeable than the 39ºS break, and gene flow appears to be mostly unidirectional from north to south.

Main conclusions: Our results support other studies that show that seascapes are complex, and also highlight the importance of accurately sampling distribution ranges when making conclusions about gene flow. Overall, the two main biogeographic barriers to gene flow characterized in the southeastern Pacific are not homogenously permeable and can be narrow (< 30 km). These results are relevant for the management of fisheries in this region and specifically for this commercially important species.

Usage Notes

Multilocus Genotypes for Pyura chilensis

This data file includes the Microsatellite multilocus data for 815 individuals of Pyura chilensis collected in the southern Pacific coasts of Chile. Multilocus genotypes are composed of 8 independent microsatellite loci. Each row contains multilocus genotypic data for one individual. The first column contains the sampling ID, the second column contains the Population ID, the third column contains Sampling locality names. Details can be found in the main text of the associated article.


Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico, Award: 1140121

BECA CONICYT‐PCHA, Award: 21161273

Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico, Award: 1190710

BECA CONICYT‐PCHA, Award: 21190878

BECA CONICYT‐PCHA, Award: 22181002