MEPS 545:227-238 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11573

Population structure and long-term decline in three species of heart urchins Abatus spp. near-shore in the Vestfold Hills region, East Antarctica

Cecilia Carrea1,*, Christopher P. Burridge1, Catherine K. King2, Karen J. Miller1,3

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia
2Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston 7050, Tasmania, Australia
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, Perth 6009, Western Australia, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Patterns of fine-scale spatial population structure in Antarctic benthic species are poorly understood. There is a high proportion of brooding species in the Antarctic benthos, and a brooding life history strategy is expected to restrict their dispersal abilities and therefore foster population structure. Additionally, genetic structuring of populations can preserve signals of historic processes (such as Pleistocene glaciations) on species distributions and abundances. We developed a set of 7 microsatellite markers to examine population genetic variation and infer the demographic history of 3 sympatric Antarctic sea urchin species from the order Spatangoida (Abatus ingens, A. shackletoni and A. philippii), all with brooding life history strategies. Samples were collected at 5 sites separated by up to 5 km, in the near-shore area surrounding Davis Station in the Vestfold Hills area of the Australian Antarctic Territory. We found evidence of a long-term population decline in all 3 species, and the estimated timing of the decline precedes anthropogenic activities and is compatible with long-term climate variability. Two genetic clusters in A. ingens and A. shackletoni suggest secondary contact after population differentiation in glacial refugia. Life history is not a good predictor of fine-scale population structure in these species, with gene flow possible at distances of 5 km. Finally, no evidence was found for a potential impact of pollution from Davis Station on genetic variation. The reduced effective population size observed for these Antarctic benthic species highlights their fragility and the need for conservation concern.


KEY WORDS: Population structure · Demographic change · Microsatellite markers · Abatus · East Antarctica


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Cite this article as: Carrea C, Burridge CP, King CK, Miller KJ (2016) Population structure and long-term decline in three species of heart urchins Abatus spp. near-shore in the Vestfold Hills region, East Antarctica. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 545:227-238. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11573

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