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Limits to gene flow in marine animals with planktonic larvae: models of Littorina species around Point Conception, California

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Simulation models examined the process of gene flow in marine animals with planktonic larvae, and three factors that may influence it: ocean currents, planktonic period and spawning season. To focus on a realistic example, the models were based on measured ocean currents around Point Conception in southern California and the life histories of two intertidal gastropods, Littorina scutulata and L. plena. Results suggested that: (1) convergent ocean currents can create an effective barrier to gene flow that can be relaxed by temporal variation; (2) longer scales of temporal variation have a greater effect than shorter scales; (3) planktonic period has little effect above a minimum duration; and (4) an extended spawning season can eliminate gene flow barriers when currents vary seasonally. Failure of past studies to detect a phylogeographical boundary at Point Conception may be explained by extended spawning seasons and temporal variation at seasonal to millennial scales. These results fit a conceptual model of marine speciation in which short-lived, leaky barriers restrict gene flow, and divergence in a few genes may quickly produce reproductive isolation, resulting in cryptic sibling species. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 169–187.
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Keywords: Littorinidae; computer simulation; dispersal; ocean currents; spawning season; speciation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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