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|The detection of spatial variation in widespread marine species: methods and bias in the analysis of population structure in the crown of thorns starfish (Echinodermata: Asteroidea)|Benzie, J.A.H. (2000). The detection of spatial variation in widespread marine species: methods and bias in the analysis of population structure in the crown of thorns starfish (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Hydrobiologia 420(1): 1-14. dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1003943011631
In: Hydrobiologia. Springer: The Hague. ISSN 0018-8158, more
Acanthaster planci (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Marine
population genetics; evolution; allozymes; DNA; marine genetics; Acanthaster planci
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The basic assumptions that widespread marine species should show little spatial variation in genetic structure, given their high potential for dispersal on ocean currents, is being questioned. This has taken some time because there are few studies of widespread marine species over oceanic scales, few data sets that have the high density of sampling required for the detection of fine population structure, and there is little incentive to look further if initial analyses suggest the expected result. The interpretation of the population genetic structure of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) has been found to vary considerably depending on the sample set included in the analyses and on the method of analysis used. Scatter plots of genetic distance or theta, and spatial autocorrelation approaches gave markedly different results ranging from no structure to isolation by distance. Only visual examination of maps of patterns of variation in allele variation first detected that crown-of-thorns starfish occupy large regions with little between population differentiation, but between which there are markedly higher levels of differentiation. These findings highlight the care required in interpreting population structure, particularly where there are few sample points. Many marine species may have population structures where sharp genetic disjunctions, not associated with any obvious environmental boundaries, separate regions of relative genetic homogeneity. Such population structures are very different from those traditionally assumed and are not yet understood. Further advances in understanding the genetic structure of marine species will demand an iterative approach where a greater number of samples are collected over particular regions identified by earlier interpretations.