Historical processes and contemporary ocean currents drive genetic structure in the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii in the Indo-Australian Archipelago
School of Science
Understanding spatial patterns of gene flow and genetic structure is essential for the conservation of marine ecosystems. Contemporary ocean currents and historical isolation due to Pleistocene sea level fluctuations have been predicted to influence the genetic structure in marine populations. In the Indo-Australian Archipelago (IAA), the world's hotspot of marine biodiversity, seagrasses are a vital component but population genetic information is very limited. Here, we reconstructed the phylogeography of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii in the IAA based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and then characterized the genetic structure based on a panel of 16 microsatellite markers. We further examined the relative importance of historical isolation and contemporary ocean currents in driving the patterns of genetic structure. Results from SNPs revealed three population groups: eastern Indonesia, western Indonesia (Sunda Shelf) and Indian Ocean; while the microsatellites supported five population groups (eastern Indonesia, Sunda Shelf, Lesser Sunda, Western Australia and Indian Ocean). Both SNPs and microsatellites showed asymmetrical gene flow among population groups with a trend of southwestward migration from eastern Indonesia. Genetic diversity was generally higher in eastern Indonesia and decreased southwestward. The pattern of genetic structure and connectivity is attributed partly to the Pleistocene sea level fluctuations modified to a smaller level by contemporary ocean currents.