MEPS 380:137-146 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07924

Human-mediated transport determines the non-native distribution of the anemone Nematostella vectensis, a dispersal-limited estuarine invertebrate

John A. Darling1,*, Ashley Kuenzi1, Adam M. Reitzel2

1National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 West Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208, USA
2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Sessile invertebrates are common invaders of estuarine ecosystems. To expand their non-native ranges, these invasive taxa must contend with the geographically and ecologically discontinuous nature of estuarine habitats, in many cases without the benefit of highly dispersive larval phases. In addition, their population dynamics may reflect contributions from both sexual and asexual reproduction. Here we use genetic methods to explore the population structure of Nematostella vectensis, a dispersal-limited salt marsh anemone, along the Pacific coast of North America. Analysis of 9 highly polymorphic microsatellite loci reveals that asexual reproduction is critical to both maintenance of local population density and regional population expansion. While high levels of genetic differentiation among populations (FST > 0.3) reflect general restrictions to natural dispersal, the observation of 2 clones distributed across multiple, widely separated sampling sites indicates that long distance dispersal of adult anemones is a major contributor to the spread of N. vectensis. We argue that anthropogenic transport represents the most likely mechanism driving this spread, although rafting may offer an alternative explanation for the observed distribution.


KEY WORDS: Nematostella vectensis · Invasive species · Clonality · Asexual reproduction · Dispersal · Microsatellites · Estuarine


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Cite this article as: Darling JA, Kuenzi A, Reitzel AM (2009) Human-mediated transport determines the non-native distribution of the anemone Nematostella vectensis, a dispersal-limited estuarine invertebrate. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 380:137-146. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07924

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