A novel integrative approach elucidates fine-scale dispersal patchiness in marine populations

Schunter, C.Pascual, M.Raventós, NúriaGarriga, Joan Garza, J. C.Bartumeus, Frederic Macpherson, Enrique . . Scientific Reports 9 :10796 (2019)  DIGITAL CSIC

Dispersal is one of the main determining factors of population structure. In the marine habitat, well-connected populations with large numbers of reproducing individuals are common but even so population structure can exist on a small-scale. Variation in dispersal patterns between populations or over time is often associated to geographic distance or changing oceanographic barriers. Consequently, detecting structure and variation in dispersal on a fine-scale within marine populations still remains a challenge. Here we propose and use a novel approach of combining a clustering model, early-life history trait information from fish otoliths, spatial coordinates and genetic markers to detect very fine-scale dispersal patterns. We collected 1573 individuals (946 adults and 627 juveniles) of the blackfaced blenny across a small-scale (2 km) coastline as well as at a larger-scale area (<50 kms). A total of 178 single nucleotide polymorphism markers were used to evaluate relatedness patterns within this well-connected population. In our clustering models we categorized SHORT-range dispersers to be potential local recruits based on their high relatedness within and low relatedness towards other spatial clusters. Local retention and/or dispersal of this potential local recruitment varied across the 2 km coastline with higher frequency of SHORT-range dispersers towards the southwest of the area for adults. An inverse pattern was found for juveniles, showing an increase of SHORT-range dispersers towards the northeast. As we rule out selective movement and mortality from one year to the next, this pattern reveals a complex but not full genetic mixing, and variability in coastal circulation is most likely the main driver of this fine-scale chaotic genetic patchiness within this otherwise homogeneous population. When focusing on the patterns within one recruitment season, we found large differences in temperatures (from approx. 17 °C to 25 °C) as well as pelagic larval duration (PLD) for juveniles from the beginning of the season and the end of the season. We were able to detect fine-scale differences in LONG-range juvenile dispersers, representing distant migrants, depending on whether they were born at the beginning of the season with a longer PLD, or at the end of the reproductive season. The ability to detect such fine-scale dispersal patchiness will aid in our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of population structuring and chaotic patchiness in a wide range of species even with high potential dispersal abilities.