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Curr Biol. 2006 Aug 22;16(16):1622-6.

Seascape genetics: a coupled oceanographic-genetic model predicts population structure of Caribbean corals.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA.


Population genetics is a powerful tool for measuring important larval connections between marine populations [1-4]. Similarly, oceanographic models based on environmental data can simulate particle movements in ocean currents and make quantitative estimates of larval connections between populations possible [5-9]. However, these two powerful approaches have remained disconnected because no general models currently provide a means of directly comparing dispersal predictions with empirical genetic data (except, see [10]). In addition, previous genetic models have considered relatively simple dispersal scenarios that are often unrealistic for marine larvae [11-15], and recent landscape genetic models have yet to be applied in a marine context [16-20]. We have developed a genetic model that uses connectivity estimates from oceanographic models to predict genetic patterns resulting from larval dispersal in a Caribbean coral. We then compare the predictions to empirical data for threatened staghorn corals. Our coupled oceanographic-genetic model predicts many of the patterns observed in this and other empirical datasets; such patterns include the isolation of the Bahamas and an east-west divergence near Puerto Rico [3, 21-23]. This new approach provides both a valuable tool for predicting genetic structure in marine populations and a means of explicitly testing these predictions with empirical data.

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