Comparative population genomics reveals key barriers to dispersal in Southern Ocean penguins

Gemma V. Clucas, Jane L. Younger, Damian Kao, Louise Emmerson, Colin Southwell, Barbara Wienecke, Alex D. Rogers, Charles André Bost, Gary D. Miller, Michael J. Polito, Patrick Lelliott, Jonathan Handley, Sarah Crofts, Richard A. Phillips, Michael J. Dunn, Karen J. Miller, Tom Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (SciVal)


The mechanisms that determine patterns of species dispersal are important factors in the production and maintenance of biodiversity. Understanding these mechanisms helps to forecast the responses of species to environmental change. Here, we used a comparative framework and genomewide data obtained through RAD-Seq to compare the patterns of connectivity among breeding colonies for five penguin species with shared ancestry, overlapping distributions and differing ecological niches, allowing an examination of the intrinsic and extrinsic barriers governing dispersal patterns. Our findings show that at-sea range and oceanography underlie patterns of dispersal in these penguins. The pelagic niche of emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri), king (A. patagonicus), Adélie (Pygoscelis adeliae) and chinstrap (P. antarctica) penguins facilitates gene flow over thousands of kilometres. In contrast, the coastal niche of gentoo penguins (P. papua) limits dispersal, resulting in population divergences. Oceanographic fronts also act as dispersal barriers to some extent. We recommend that forecasts of extinction risk incorporate dispersal and that management units are defined by at-sea range and oceanography in species lacking genetic data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4680-4697
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number23
Early online date11 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Aptenodytes
  • genetic differentiation
  • Polar Front
  • population genomics
  • Pygoscelis
  • RAD-Seq

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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