Navigating the currents of seascape genomics: how spatial analyses can augment population genomic studies

Curr Zool. 2016 Dec;62(6):581-601. doi: 10.1093/cz/zow067. Epub 2016 Jul 6.


Population genomic approaches are making rapid inroads in the study of non-model organisms, including marine taxa. To date, these marine studies have predominantly focused on rudimentary metrics describing the spatial and environmental context of their study region (e.g., geographical distance, average sea surface temperature, average salinity). We contend that a more nuanced and considered approach to quantifying seascape dynamics and patterns can strengthen population genomic investigations and help identify spatial, temporal, and environmental factors associated with differing selective regimes or demographic histories. Nevertheless, approaches for quantifying marine landscapes are complicated. Characteristic features of the marine environment, including pelagic living in flowing water (experienced by most marine taxa at some point in their life cycle), require a well-designed spatial-temporal sampling strategy and analysis. Many genetic summary statistics used to describe populations may be inappropriate for marine species with large population sizes, large species ranges, stochastic recruitment, and asymmetrical gene flow. Finally, statistical approaches for testing associations between seascapes and population genomic patterns are still maturing with no single approach able to capture all relevant considerations. None of these issues are completely unique to marine systems and therefore similar issues and solutions will be shared for many organisms regardless of habitat. Here, we outline goals and spatial approaches for landscape genomics with an emphasis on marine systems and review the growing empirical literature on seascape genomics. We review established tools and approaches and highlight promising new strategies to overcome select issues including a strategy to spatially optimize sampling. Despite the many challenges, we argue that marine systems may be especially well suited for identifying candidate genomic regions under environmentally mediated selection and that seascape genomic approaches are especially useful for identifying robust locus-by-environment associations.

Keywords: adaptation; genetic–environment association; landscape; oceanography; population genomics; remote sensing; seascape genetics..