Spatial and temporal genetic structure of the New Zealand scallop Pecten novaezelandiae: A multidisciplinary perspective
Knowledge about the population genetic structure of species and the factors shaping such patterns is crucial for effective management and conservation. The complexity of New Zealand’s marine environment presents a challenge for management and the classification of its marine biogeographic areas. As such, it is an interesting system to investigate marine connectivity dynamics and the evolutionary processes shaping the population structure of marine species. An accurate description of spatial and temporal patterns of dispersal and population structure requires the use of tools capable of incorporating the variability of the mechanisms involved. However, these techniques are yet to be broadly applied to New Zealand marine organisms. This study used genetic markers to assess the genetic variation of the endemic New Zealand scallop, Pecten novaezelandiae, at different spatial and temporal scales. A multidisciplinary approach was used integrating genetic with environmental data (seascape genetics) and hydrodynamic modelling tools. P. novaezelandiae supports important commercial, recreational and customary fisheries but there is no previous information about its genetic structure. Therefore, twelve microsatellite markers were developed for this study (Chapter 2). Samples (n=952) were collected from 15 locations to determine the genetic structure across the distribution range of P. novaezelandiae. The low genetic structure detected in this study is expected given the recent evolutionary history, the large reproductive potential and the pelagic larval duration of the species (approximately 3 weeks). A significant isolation by distance signal and a degree of differentiation from north to south was apparent, but this structure conflicted with some evidence of panmixia. A latitudinal genetic diversity gradient was observed that might reflect the colonisation and extinction events and insufficient time to reach migration-drift equilibrium during a recent range expansion (Chapter 3). A seascape genetic approach was used to test for associations between patterns of genetic variation in P. novaezelandiae and environmental variables (three geospatial and six environmental variables). Although the geographic distance between populations was an important variable explaining the genetic variation among populations, it appears that levels of genetic differentiation are not a simple function of distance. Evidence suggests that some environmental factors such as freshwater discharge and suspended particulate matter can be contributing to the patterns of genetic differentiation of P. novaezelandiae in New Zealand (Chapter 4). Dispersal of P. novaezelandiae was investigated at a small spatial and temporal scale in the Coromandel fishery using genetic markers integrated with hydrodynamic modelling. For the spatial analysis, samples (n=402) were collected in 2012 from 5 locations and for the temporal analysis samples (n=383) were collected in 2012 and 2014 from 3 locations. Results showed small but significant spatial and temporal genetic differentiation, suggesting that the Coromandel fishery does not form a single panmictic unit with free gene flow and supporting a model of source-sink population dynamics (Chapter 5). The importance of using multidisciplinary approaches at different spatial and temporal scales is widely recognized as a means to better understand the complex processes affecting marine connectivity. The outcomes of this study highlight the importance of incorporating these different approaches, provide vital information to assist in effective management and conservation of P. novaezelandiae and contribute to our understanding of evolutionary processes shaping population structure of marine species.