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Fine-scale patterns of genetic divergence within and between morphologically variable subspecies of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma (Echinometridae)
Binks, R.M.; Evans, J.P.; Prince, J.; Kennington, W.J. (2011). Fine-scale patterns of genetic divergence within and between morphologically variable subspecies of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma (Echinometridae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 103(3): 578-592
In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0024-4066, more
Peer reviewed article

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Keywords
    Animal morphology; Genetic diversity; Life history; Microsatellites; Population structure; Echinometridae Gray, 1855 [WoRMS]; Heliocidaris erythrogramma (Valenciennes, 1846) [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Binks, R.M.
  • Evans, J.P.
  • Prince, J.
  • Kennington, W.J.

Abstract
    The spatial scale over which genetic divergences occur between populations and the extent that they are paralleled by morphological differences can vary greatly among marine species. In the present study, we use a hierarchical spatial design to investigate genetic structure in Heliocidaris erythrogramma occurring on near shore limestone reefs in Western Australia. These reefs are inhabited by two distinct subspecies: the thick-spined Heliocidaris erythrogramma armigera and the thin-spined Heliocidaris erythrogramma erythrogramma, each of which also have distinct colour patterns. In addition to pronounced morphological variation, H. erythrogramma exhibits a relatively short (3–4 days) planktonic phase before settlement and metamorphosis, which limits their capacity for dispersal. We used microsatellite markers to determine whether patterns of genetic structure were influenced more by morphological or life history limitations to dispersal. Both individual and population-level analyses found significant genetic differentiation between subspecies, which was independent of geographical distance. Genetic diversity was considerably lower within H. e. erythrogramma than within H. e. armigera and genetic divergence was four-fold greater between subspecies than among populations within subspecies. This pattern was consistent even at fine spatial scales (< 5 km). We did detect some evidence of gene flow between the subspecies; however, it appears to be highly restricted. Within subspecies, genetic structure was more clearly driven by dispersal capacity, although weak patterns of isolation-by-distance suggest that there may be other factors limiting gene exchange between populations. Our results show that spatial patterns of genetic structure in Western Australian H. erythrogramma is influenced by a range of factors but is primarily correlated with the distribution of morphologically distinct subspecies. This suggests the presence of reproductive barriers to gene exchange between them and demonstrates that morphological variation can be a good predictor of genetic divergence.

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