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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 393 - Feature article
DNA sequences are used to infer patterns of larval dispersal in organisms such as the heart urchin Brisaster latifrons. Image: Michael Hart

Weersing K, Toonen RJ


Population genetics, larval dispersal, and connectivity in marine systems


Migration is fundamental to the dynamics and genetics of populations. Measuring genetic exchange is rarely straightforward, particularly in marine species in which the greatest dispersal occurs during the larval stage. Dispersal potential is thought to increase with the time that larvae spend in the water column, and this notion has lead to the widespread use of pelagic larval duration (PLD) as a proxy for dispersal. Weersing and Toonen review genetic data from 300 studies and refute the presumed correlation between PLD and gene flow. Their meta-analysis indicates that dispersal is instead governed by a complex interplay of behavior and hydrodynamics that cannot be accurately approximated by a single parameter such as PLD.


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