Background: Regional genetic connectivity models are critical for successful conservation and management of marine species. Even though rocky shore invertebrates have been used as model systems to understand genetic structure in some marine environments, our understanding of connectivity in Caribbean communities is based overwhelmingly on studies of tropical fishes and corals. In this study, we investigate population connectivity and diversity of Cittarium pica, an abundant rocky shore trochid gastropod that is commercially harvested across its natural range, from the Bahamas to Venezuela.
Methodology/principal findings: We tested for genetic structure using DNA sequence variation at the mitochondrial COI and 16S loci, AMOVA and distance-based methods. We found substantial differentiation among Caribbean sites. Yet, genetic differentiation was associated only with larger geographic scales within the Caribbean, and the pattern of differentiation only partially matched previous assessments of Caribbean connectivity, including those based on larval dispersal from hydrodynamic models. For instance, the Bahamas, considered an independent region by previous hydrodynamic studies, showed strong association with Eastern Caribbean sites in our study. Further, Bonaire (located in the east and close to the meridional division of the Caribbean basin) seems to be isolated from other Eastern sites.
Conclusions/significance: The significant genetic structure and observed in C. pica has some commonalities in pattern with more commonly sampled taxa, but presents features, such as the differentiation of Bonaire, that appear unique. Further, the level of differentiation, together with regional patterns of diversity, has important implications for the application of conservation and management strategies in this commercially harvested species.