Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Understanding the spatial scale of genetic connectivity at sea: unique insights from a land fish and a meta-analysis


Cooke, Georgina M.; Schlub, Timothy E.; Sherwin, William B.; Ord, Terry J. (2017), Data from: Understanding the spatial scale of genetic connectivity at sea: unique insights from a land fish and a meta-analysis, Dryad, Dataset,


Quantifying the spatial scale of population connectivity is important for understanding the evolutionary potential of ecologically divergent populations and for designing conservation strategies to preserve those populations. For marine organisms like fish, the spatial scale of connectivity is generally set by a pelagic larval phase. This has complicated past estimates of connectivity because detailed information on larval movements are difficult to obtain. Genetic approaches provide a tractable alternative and have the added benefit of estimating directly the reproductive isolation of populations. In this study, we leveraged empirical estimates of genetic differentiation among populations with simulations and a meta-analysis to provide a general estimate of the spatial scale of genetic connectivity in marine environments. We used neutral genetic markers to first quantify the genetic differentiation of ecologically-isolated adult populations of a land dwelling fish, the Pacific leaping blenny (Alticus arnoldorum), where marine larval dispersal is the only probable means of connectivity among populations. We then compared these estimates to simulations of a range of marine dispersal scenarios and to collated FST and distance data from the literature for marine fish across diverse spatial scales. We found genetic connectivity at sea was extensive among marine populations and in the case of A. arnoldorum, apparently little affected by the presence of ecological barriers. We estimated that ~5000 km (with broad confidence intervals ranging from 810 - 11,692 km) was the spatial scale at which evolutionarily meaningful barriers to gene flow start to occur at sea, although substantially shorter distances are also possible for some taxa. In general, however, such a large estimate of connectivity has important implications for the evolutionary and conservation potential of many marine fish communities.

Usage Notes