Asymmetric dispersal allows an upstream region to control population structure throughout a species' range.

Academic Article


  • In a single well-mixed population, equally abundant neutral alleles are equally likely to persist. However, in spatially complex populations structured by an asymmetric dispersal mechanism, such as a coastal population where larvae are predominantly moved downstream by currents, the eventual frequency of neutral haplotypes will depend on their initial spatial location. In our study of the progression of two spatially separate, genetically distinct introductions of the European green crab (Carcinus maenas) along the coast of eastern North America, we captured this process in action. We documented the shift of the genetic cline in this species over 8 y, and here we detail how the upstream haplotypes are beginning to dominate the system. This quantification of an evolving genetic boundary in a coastal system demonstrates that novel genetic alleles or haplotypes that arise or are introduced into upstream retention zones (regions whose export of larvae is not balanced by import from elsewhere) will increase in frequency in the entire system. This phenomenon should be widespread when there is asymmetrical dispersal, in the oceans or on land, suggesting that the upstream edge of a species' range can influence genetic diversity throughout its distribution. Efforts to protect the upstream edge of an asymmetrically dispersing species' range are vital to conserving genetic diversity in the species.
  • Authors

  • Pringle, James
  • Blakeslee, April MH
  • Byers, James E
  • Roman, Joe
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 13, 2011
  • Keywords

  • Alleles
  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Brachyura
  • Canada
  • Gene Frequency
  • Geography
  • Haplotypes
  • Larva
  • Models, Genetic
  • New England
  • Population Dynamics
  • Species Specificity
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 15288
  • End Page

  • 15293
  • Volume

  • 108
  • Issue

  • 37