Barnacles were sampled from various microhabitats in the rocky intertidal at multiple sites in two years. At sites in which there were large differences among microhabitats in temperature profiles, Mpi genotype frequencies were consistently and significantly different. Genotype frequencies for another allozyme locus (Gpi) as well as a DNA marker shown to be neutral (the mtDNA control region) were statistically homogeneous among thermal microhabitats at all sites in both years. The data indicate that temperature and/or desiccation mediated selection is operating at Mpi or a linked locus and that Mpi genotypes experience differential mortality in the various habitat types. If the relative fitness of genotypes is dependent on habitat type, the Mpi polymorphism may be actively maintained by a Levene model of balancing selection (Levene 1953). Because barnacle larvae are produced in abundance each year and spend five to eight weeks dispersing in the water column, there is little opportunity for the accumulation of adaptive divergence over the environmental grain size relevant in intertidal habitats. The Mpi polymorphism may be an important component of a suite of traits involved in the adaptation of barnacles to heterogeneous environments. Due to the relatively high concentration of mannose in a variety of algal groups, the metabolism of mannose may substantially affect individual performance and fitness in this and other species that feed on algae and phytoplankton. Because the Mpi locus is one of the most strongly polymorphic in marine organisms, these findings may be relevant for a diversity of other such species.
Keywords: Balancing selection; Mpi; Semibalanus balanoides; habitat variation; multiple locus comparisons.
© 1999 The Society for the Study of Evolution.