Spatial Autocorrelation Analysis of Small-Scale Genetic Structure in a Clonal Soft Coral with Limited Larval Dispersal

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Biology (HMC)

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The philopatric larval dispersal and small effective population sizes characteristic of many clonal species should promote the development of significant small-scale genetic structure within populations as a result of isolation-by-distance. We used spatial autocorrelation statistics to detect genetic structure, arising from both clonal reproduction and philopatric dispersal of sexual propagules, for five allozyme loci within populations of the soft coral Alcyonium sp. In a population on Tatoosh Island, Washington, USA, sampled in 1991/1992, we found significant positive spatial autocorrelation at all loci among individuals separated by cm, reflecting the presence of significant smallscale genetic structure due to associations among clonemates. For 4 of 5 loci, however, we detected no significant spatial autocorrelation among the different clones within this population over distances of 1 to 40 m. Analysis of soft-coral populations from six additional, topographically diverse sites in the north-east Pacific also did not reveal significant spatial autocorrelation among clones at any loci. This general lack of spatial autocorrelation of genotypes among clones suggests that significant small-scale genetic structure has not arisen in populations of Alcyonium sp. as a consequence of isolation-by-distance.

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© 1996 Springer-Verlag