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Mol Ecol. 2006 Nov;15(13):4193-202.

Genetic evidence for kin aggregation in the intertidal acorn barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides).

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1
Québec Océan, Université Laval, Département de Biologie, Québec City, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4.

Abstract

It is generally assumed that larvae of benthic species are thoroughly mixed in the plankton and distributed randomly at settlement. Yet, it has also been hypothesized that a combination of larval gregarious behaviour coupled with particular oceanographic conditions may prevent larvae from mixing completely, and result in nonrandom spatial distributions following settlement. Using microsatellite markers, the main objective of this study was to investigate the occurrence of statistical connections between relatedness and settlement in the intertidal acorn barnacle from the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. A second objective was to test the hypothesis that patches of kin-related individuals came from a common parental site. Our results indicated that a significant number of barnacles within a given sample were more closely related than expected by chance despite the enormous potential for admixture during the planktonic phase. Thus, eight out of 37 samples analysed had relatedness values significantly higher than expected from random settlement. Moreover, analyses of sibship network construction and network complexity tests provided evidence for the occurrence of networks within several samples that were characterized by strong connections among individuals. Thus, nonrandom planktonic dispersal associated with relatively stable oceanic currents, as well as additional ecological factors to be rigorously investigated (e.g. behavioural mechanisms), may be more important in determining patterns of genetic structure in marine benthic invertebrates than generally assumed. Therefore, documenting genetic patterns associated with kin aggregation should be a fruitful and an important avenue for future studies in marine invertebrates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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