Genetic variation in deep-sea invertebrate populations: The bathyal gastropod Bathybembix bairdii

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Five populations of the bathyal trochid gastropod Bathybembix bairdii (Dall) taken from depths of 579 to 1156 m in the Southern California Continental Borderland were surveyed for levels of genetic variability at 18 presumptive gene loci, using techniques of starch gel electrophoresis. All the populations were highly similar genetically; none of the populations possessed unique alleles. Four of 5 polymorphic loci scored in all the populations displayed statistically significant heterogeneity of allelic frequencies among stations. Only the diallelic fumarase (FUM) locus displayed a trend with depth. The geographic and depth patterns of the genetic variability in these populations do not support the hypothesis that the high levels of genetic variability observed in bathyal populations are an artifact of gene flow between populations differentiated with depth. The 16.2% of the loci heterozygous per individual of B. bairdii is of the same order as the average heterozygosities reported for other deep-sea invertebrate taxa. These reports of high genetic variability in a physically constant and seasonless environment are reviewed and discussed in the context of the trophic-stability hypothesis of Ayala and Valentine and the time, size and divergence hypothesis of Soulé. Evidence is presented that despite the observed correlation of average heterozygosities in benthic marine invertebrates with seasonality of the trophic regime, this is not apparent for an enzyme system (leucine amino peptidase) which might be expected to display this trend if it reflected a genetic strategy to cope with trophic seasonality. The time, size and divergence hypothesis, focusing on population size, accounts for the general features of levels of genetic variability in deep-sea invertebrates. © 1978 Springer-Verlag.

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Marine Biology

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