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Open Access Evaluating edge-of-range genetic patterns for tropical echinoderms, Acanthaster planci and Tripneustes gratilla, of the Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific

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Edge-of-range populations are often typified by patterns of low genetic diversity and high genetic differentiation relative to populations within the core of a species range. The “core-periphery hypothesis,” also known as the “central-marginal hypothesis,” predicts that these genetic patterns at the edge-of-range are a consequence of reduced population size and connectivity toward a species range periphery. It is unclear, however, how these expectations relate to high dispersal marine species that can conceivably maintain high abundance and high connectivity at their range edge. In the present study, we characterize the genetic patterns of two tropical echinoderm populations in the Kermadec Islands, the edge of their southwest Pacific range, and compare these genetic patterns to those from populations throughout their east Indian and Pacific ranges. We find that the populations of both Acanthaster planci (Linnaeus, 1758) and Tripneustes gratilla (Linnaeus, 1758) are represented by a single haplotype at the Kermadec Islands (based on mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase C subunit I). Such low genetic diversity concurs with the expectations of the “core-periphery hypothesis.” Furthermore, the haplotypic composition of both populations suggests they have been founded by a small number of colonists with little subsequent immigration. Thus, local reproduction and self-recruitment appear to maintain these populations despite the ecologically marginal conditions of the Kermadec Islands for these tropical species. Understanding rates of self-recruitment vs reliance on connectivity with populations outside of the Kermadec Islands has implications for the persistence of these populations and range stability of these echinoderm species.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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