The phenomenon of chaotic genetic patchiness is a pattern commonly seen in marine organisms, particularly those with demersal adults and pelagic larvae. This pattern is usually associated with sweepstakes recruitment and variable reproductive success. Here we investigate the biological underpinnings of this pattern in a species of marine goby Coryphopterus personatus. We find that populations of this species show tell-tale signs of chaotic genetic patchiness including: small, but significant, differences in genetic structure over short distances; a non-equilibrium or “chaotic” pattern of differentiation among locations in space; and within locus, within population deviations from the expectations of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE). We show that despite having a pelagic larval stage, and a wide distribution across Caribbean coral reefs, this species forms groups of highly related individuals at small spatial scales (metres). These spatially clustered family groups cause the observed deviations from HWE and local population differentiation, a finding that is rarely demonstrated, but could be more common than previously thought.
Selwyn, Jason D.; Hogan, J. Derek; Downey-Wall, Alan M.; Gurski, Lauren M.; Portnoy, David S.; and Heath, Daniel D., "Kin-Aggregations Explain Chaotic Genetic Patchiness, a Commonly Observed Genetic Pattern, in a Marine Fish" (2016). PLOS ONE, 11, 4, e0153381-e0153381.