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The freshwater stream fauna of tropical oceanic islands is dominated by amphidromous species, whose larvae are transported to the ocean and develop in the plankton before recruiting back to freshwater habitat as juveniles. Because stream habitat is relatively scarce and unstable on oceanic islands, this life history would seem to favor either the retention of larvae to their natal streams, or the ability to delay metamorphosis until new habitat is encountered. To distinguish between these hypotheses, we used population genetic methods to estimate larval dispersal among five South Pacific archipelagos in two amphidromous species of Neritid gastropod (Neritina canalis and Neripteron dilatatus). Sequence data from mitochondrial COI revealed that neither species is genetically structured throughout the Western Pacific, suggesting that their larvae have a pelagic larval duration of at least eight weeks, longer than many marine species. Additionally, the two species have recently colonized isolated Central Pacific archipelagos in three independent events. Since colonization, there has been little to no gene flow between the Western and Central Pacific archipelagos in Neritina canalis, and high levels of gene flow across the same region in Neripteron dilatatus. Both species show departures from neutrality and recent dates for colonization of the Central Pacific archipelagos consistent with frequent extinction and recolonization of stream populations in this area. Similar results from other amphidromous species suggest that unstable freshwater habitats promote long-distance dispersal capabilities.


Preprint version. Published in Heredity, 2010, pp. 563-572.

The final publication is available via DOI: 10.1038/hdy.2009.138