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Using a combination of population and individual-based analytical approached, we provided a comprehensive examination of genetic connectivity of Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) along ~1,200 km of the California Current System (CCS). We sampled individuals at 33 sites in 2012 to establish a baseline of genetic diversity and hierarchal population genetic structure and then assessed interannual variability in our estimates by sampling again in 2014.
Genetic diversity showed little variation among sites or across years. In 2012, we observed weak genetic differentiation among sites (FST range = −0.005–0.014) following a pattern of isolation by distance (IBD) and significantly high relatedness among individuals within nine sampling sites. In 2014, pairwise FST estimates were lower (FST range = −0.014–0.007), there was no spatial autocorrelation, and fewer sites had significant evidence of relatedness. Based on these findings, we propose that interannual variation in the physical oceanographic conditions of the CCS influences larval recruitment and thus gene flow, contributing to interannual variation in population genetic structure. Estimates of effective population size (Ne) were large in both 2012 and 2014. Together, our results suggest that Dungeness crab in the CCS may constitute a single evolutionary population, although geographically limited dispersal results in an ephemeral signal of IBD. Furthermore, our findings demonstrate that populations of marine organisms may be susceptible to temporal changes in population genetic structure over short time periods; thus, interannual variability in population genetic measures should be considered.
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