Expansion of the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean launched contrasting genetic patterns

Triest, Ludwig; Stocken, Tom Van der; Ryck, Dennis De; Kochzius, Marc; Lorent, Sophie; Ngeve, Magdalene; Ratsimbazafy, Hajaniaina Andrianavalonarivo; Sierens, Tim; Ven, Rosa van der; Koedam, Nico


Estimates of population structure and gene flow allow exploring the historical and contemporary processes that determine a species’ biogeographic pattern. In mangroves, large-scale genetic studies to estimate gene flow have been conducted predominantly in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic region. Here we examine the genetic diversity and connectivity of Rhizophora mucronata across a > 3,000 km coastal stretch in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) including WIO islands. Based on 359 trees from 13 populations and using 17 polymorphic microsatellite loci we detected genetic breaks between populations of the (1) East African coastline, (2) Mozambique Channel Area (3) granitic Seychelles, and (4) Aldabra and northern Madagascar. Genetic structure, diversity levels, and patterns of inferred connectivity, aligned with the directionality of major ocean currents, driven by bifurcation of the South Equatorial Current, northward into the East African Coastal Current and southward into the Mozambique Channel Area. A secondary genetic break between nearby populations in the Delagoa Bight coincided with high inbreeding levels and fixed loci. Results illustrate how oceanographic processes can connect and separate mangrove populations regardless of geographic distance.