Patterns of dispersal and connectivity of the Caribbean gorgonian Antillogorgia elisabethae in The Bahamas were assessed in both adults and recently settled recruits from 13 sites using microsatellite loci. Adult populations along the Little Bahama Bank (LBB) exhibited a clear pattern of isolation by distance (IBD) which described 86% of the variance in pairwise genetic distances. Estimates of dispersal based on the IBD model suggested dispersal distances along the LBB on the order of 100 m. Increasing the spatial scale to include sites separated by open ocean generated an apparent IBD signal but the relationship had a greater slope and explained less of the variance. This relationship with distance reflected both stepping stone based IBD and regional differentiation probably created by ocean currents and barriers to dispersal that are correlated with geographic distance. Analysis of recruits from 4 sites on the LBB from up to 6 years did not detect differences between years nor differences with adult populations. The result suggests that neither selection on recruits nor inter-annual variation in dispersal affected adult population structure. Assignment tests of recruits indicated the most likely sources of the recruits were the local or adjacent populations. Most of the patterning in population structure in the northern Bahamas can be explained by geographic distance and oceanographic connectivity. Recognition of these complex patterns is important in developing management plans for A. elisabethae and in understanding the effects of disturbance to adult populations of A. elisabethae and similar species with limited dispersal.
Lasker, H. R., & Porto-Hannes, I. (2015). Population structure among octocoral adults and recruits identifies scale dependent patterns of population isolation in The Bahamas. PeerJ, 3, e1019. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1019