Oceanic currents drove population genetic connectivity of the brown alga Sargassum thunbergii in the north-west Pacific

Jing Jing Li, Zi Min Hu, Xu Gao, Zhong Min Sun, Han Gil Choi, De Lin Duan, Hikaru Endo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim: Oceanic currents are among the most pervasive hydrodynamic features in shaping community dynamics, population connectivity and phylogeographical structure of intertidal species. Here, we test whether population structure and biogeographical gradients of genetic diversity in the brown alga Sargassum thunbergii are correlated with oceanic currents in the north-west Pacific (NWP). Location: North-west Pacific (25.07°N–43.36°N). Methods: Nuclear internal transcribed spacer-2 and mitochondrial cox3 sequences were obtained from 835 and 810 individuals of S. thunbergii respectively. Parsimony networks and phylogenetic trees (maximum parsimony and Bayesian inference) were constructed to evaluate phylogeographical structure. Pairwise FST estimates and analyses of molecular variance (AMOVA) at various hierarchical levels (latitude, longitude, marine provinces, biogeographical basins and zoogeographical zones) were conducted to elucidate population genetic differentiation. migrate software was used to estimate the number of migrants between adjacent populations. Results: Several lines of evidence indicate that S. thunbergii is characterized by shallow population structure. Geographical distances do not correlate with population pairwise genetic differentiations. The corridor/stepping-stone model-based coalescent analyses reveal high levels of asymmetric gene flow among S. thunbergii populations, with the numbers of migrants largely corresponding to the directions of oceanic current systems in the NWP. Genetic signatures also indicate that Jeju Island, Korea might act as a transition zone for dispersal of S. thunbergii in the NWP driven by the Kuroshio Current, thus facilitating subsequent transportation northward into the Sea of Japan and the Yellow-Bohai Sea. Main conclusions: Population genetic homogeneity in S. thunbergii was mainly structured by oceanic currents rather than palaeoclimatic events. Our study illustrates an important phylogeographical case of how coastal hydrodynamic factors contributed to population connectivity and geographical shifts of genetic diversity for marine organisms without a pelagic stage.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)230-242
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Biogeography
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1


    • Kuroshio Current
    • Sargassum thunbergii
    • floating seaweeds
    • genetic exchange
    • north-west Pacific
    • oceanic currents
    • phylogeographical structure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Ecology


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