Marine Dispersal Scales Are Congruent over Evolutionary and Ecological Time

Malin L. Pinsky, Pablo Saenz-Agudelo, Océane C. Salles, Glenn R. Almany, Michael Bode, Michael L. Berumen, Serge Andréfouët, Simon R. Thorrold, Geoffrey P. Jones, Serge Planes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The degree to which offspring remain near their parents or disperse widely is critical for understanding population dynamics, evolution, and biogeography, and for designing conservation actions. In the ocean, most estimates suggesting short-distance dispersal are based on direct ecological observations of dispersing individuals, while indirect evolutionary estimates often suggest substantially greater homogeneity among populations. Reconciling these two approaches and their seemingly competing perspectives on dispersal has been a major challenge. Here we show for the first time that evolutionary and ecological measures of larval dispersal can closely agree by using both to estimate the distribution of dispersal distances. In orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) populations in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, we found that evolutionary dispersal kernels were 17 km (95% confidence interval: 12–24 km) wide, while an exhaustive set of direct larval dispersal observations suggested kernel widths of 27 km (19–36 km) or 19 km (15–27 km) across two years. The similarity between these two approaches suggests that ecological and evolutionary dispersal kernels can be equivalent, and that the apparent disagreement between direct and indirect measurements can be overcome. Our results suggest that carefully applied evolutionary methods, which are often less expensive, can be broadly relevant for understanding ecological dispersal across the tree of life.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-154
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research accomplished in this project was conducted under James Cook University ethics approval number A1643 and followed all guidelines for the country in which it took place. We thank Robin Waples for advice on Ne calculations, Raphael Leblois for advice on Migraine, and the many volunteers and local assistants who helped with field collections. We also thank R. Batt, P. Flanagan, J. Hoey, B. Selden, and E. Tekwa for comments on manuscript drafts. Funding was provided by a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship, a Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, an International Society for Reef Studies Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship BR2014-044, National Science Foundation grant OCE-1430218, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.


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