The Baja California peninsula represents a biogeographical boundary contributing to regional differentiation among populations of marine animals. We investigated the genetic characteristics of perennial and annual populations of the marine angiosperm, Zostera marina, along the Pacific coast of Baja California and in the Gulf of California, respectively. Populations of Z. marina from five coastal lagoons along the Pacific coast and four sites in the Gulf of California were studied using nine microsatellite loci. Analyses of variance revealed significant interregional differentiation, but no subregional differentiation. Significant spatial differentiation, assessed using theta(ST) values, was observed among all populations within the two regions. Z. marina populations along the Pacific coast are separated by more than 220 km and had the greatest theta(ST) (0.13-0.28) values, suggesting restricted gene flow. In contrast, lower but still significant genetic differentiation was observed among populations within the Gulf of California (theta(ST) = 0.04-0.18), even though populations are separated by more than 250 km. This suggests higher levels of gene flow among Gulf of California populations relative to Pacific coast populations. Direction of gene flow was predominantly southward among Pacific coast populations, whereas no dominant polarity in the Gulf of California populations was observed. The test for isolation by distance (IBD) showed a significant correlation between genetic and geographical distances in Gulf of California populations, but not in Pacific coast populations, perhaps because of shifts in currents during El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events along the Pacific coast.
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