Influence of contrasting larval developmental types upon the population-genetic structure of cheilostome bryozoans

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For many sedentary or sessile benthic marine invertebrates the planktonic duration of the larval stage is believed to be a key determinant of the magnitude of genetic differences between populations. An obvious dichotomy in dispersal potential exists within cheilostome bryozoans that develop from either (1) a cyphonautes larva that spends several weeks in the plankton or (2) a brooded coronate larva that settles soon after release from the adult colony. This study characterises the pattern of variation at allozyme loci among British populations of four species of bryozoan—two species with cyphonautes and two with coronate larvae. There is some variation in the estimates of genetic differentiation among similarly separated populations that may be a consequence of non-equilibrium genetic conditions arising from sporadic migration, possibly through dispersal by rafting on macroalgae by mature colonies. Despite this, however, both the level of genetic differentiation between populations and the pattern of migrant exchange correlate with the larval developmental mode. Bryozoan species that brood coronate larvae show higher levels of genetic heterogeneity between populations and significant isolation by distance genetic structure while, by contrast, distance has little or no effect upon the amount of genetic differentiation among populations of bryozoans with cyphonautes larvae. For cheilostome bryozoans, therefore, it appears that genetic differentiation between populations is directly associated with the type of larval development. These data are discussed also with respect to levels of gene diversity and the geological pattern of cheilostome bryozoan species diversity.

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