Vicariance and dispersal effects on phylogeographic structure and speciation in a widespread estuarine invertebrate

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Vicariance and dispersal can strongly influence population genetic structure and allopatric speciation, but their importance in the origin of marine biodiversity is unresolved. In transitional estuarine environments, habitat discreteness and dispersal barriers could enhance divergence and provide insight to evolutionary mechanisms underlying marine and freshwater biodiversity. We examined this by assessing phylogeographic structure in the widespread amphipod Gammarus tigrinus across 13 estuaries spanning its northwest Atlantic range from Quebec to Florida. Mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I and nuclear internal transcribed spacer 1 phylogenies supported deep genetic structure consistent with Pliocene separation and cryptic northern and southern species. This break occurred across the Virginian-Carolinian coastal biogeographic zone, where an oceanographic discontinuity may restrict gene flow. Ten estuarine populations of the northern species occurred in four distinct clades, supportive of Pleistocene separation. Glaciation effects on genetic structure of estuarine populations are largely unknown, but analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) supported a phylogeographic break among clades in formerly glaciated versus nonglaciated areas across Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This finding was concordant with patterns in other coastal species, though there was no significant relationship between latitude and genetic diversity. This supports Pleistocene vicariance events and divergence of clades in different northern glacial refugia. AMOVA results and private haplotypes in most populations support an allopatric distribution across estuaries. Clade mixture zones are consistent with historical colonization and human-mediated transfer. An isolation-by-distance model of divergence was detected after we excluded a suspected invasive haplotype in the St. Lawrence estuary. The occurrence of cryptic species and divergent population structure support limited dispersal, dispersed habitat distribution, and historical factors as important determinants of estuarine speciation and diversification. © 2006 The Society for the Study of Evolution. All rights reserved.