Intertidal population genetic dynamics at a microgeographic seascape scale.Mol Ecol. 2013 Jun; 22(12):3191-4.ME
The intertidal community is among the most physically harsh niches on earth, with highly heterogeneous environmental and biological factors that impose strong habitat selection on population abundance, genetic connectivity and ecological adaptation of organisms in nature. However, most genetic studies to date have concentrated on the influence of basin-wide or regional marine environments (e.g. habitat discontinuities, oceanic currents and fronts, and geographic barriers) on spatiotemporal distribution and composition of intertidal invertebrates having planktonic stages or long-distance dispersal capability. Little is known about sessile marine organisms (e.g. seaweeds) in the context of topographic tidal gradients and reproductive traits at the microgeographic scale. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Krueger-Hadfield et al. () implemented an elaborate sampling strategy with red seaweed (Chondrus crispus) from a 90-m transect stand near Roscoff and comprehensively detected genome-scale genetic differentiation and biases in ploidy level. This study not only revealed that tidal height resulted in genetic differentiation between high- and low-shore stands and restricted the genetic exchange within the high-shore habitat, but also demonstrated that intergametophytic nonrandom fertilization in C. crispus can cause significant deviation from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Such new genetic insights highlight the importance of microgeographic genetic dynamics and life history characteristics for better understanding the evolutionary processes of speciation and diversification of intertidal marine organisms.