Connectivity in solitary ascidians: Is a 24-h propagule duration sufficient to maintain large-scale genetic homogeneity?

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Ascidians are considered to have lower dispersal potential than most other sessile marine invertebrates with planktonic propagules by virtue of a very brief propagule duration. The larvae of colonial forms remain in the water column for only a few minutes, whereas most solitary forms settle in less than 24 h. This difference in propagule duration has been used to explain why allozyme data from colonial ascidians on the Australian east coast were genetically distinct at different sampling sites, whereas a solitary species exhibited no genetic structure. Spatial homogeneity in solitary species is surprising because genetic structure of species with much higher dispersal potential can be characterised by isolation by geographic distance, suggesting that these disperse by means of a stepping-stone pattern of dispersal. I reassessed the dispersal potential of solitary ascidians using DNA sequence data from the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 gene and the intron of the nuclear adenine nucleotide transporter gene of a common south-eastern Australian solitary ascidian, Pyura praeputialis, using samples that span the species’ distribution range. Congruent with earlier findings, there was no evidence for stepping-stone dispersal, but it must be conceded that these results could be strongly affected by frequent adult dispersal, particularly by means of anthropogenic vectors, as well as insufficient marker resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2681-2687
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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