Can sea snakes slither through seascape structure? Comparative phylogeography and population genetics of Hydrophis group sea snakes in Australia and Southeast Asia

Garcia, Vhon Oliver S., Riginos, Cynthia, and Lukoschek, Vimoksalehi (2022) Can sea snakes slither through seascape structure? Comparative phylogeography and population genetics of Hydrophis group sea snakes in Australia and Southeast Asia. Frontiers of Biogeography, 14 (3). e56342.

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Abstract

Pleistocene sea level changes substantially shaped the biogeography of northern Australia and the Indo-Malayan Archipelago (IMA). For co-distributed species, their phylogeographic and population genetic patterns are expected to be concomitant with geological transformations of the Pleistocene. However, species-specific ecologies and life history traits may also be influential in generating patterns which depart from simple expectations arising from biogeographic features. Thus, comparative population genetic studies, which use taxa that reduces variation in taxonomy and geography, may refine our understanding of how biogeographic elements shape the populations of co-occurring species. Here, we sampled two sea snake species, Hydrophis curtus and H. elegans, throughout their known ranges in the IMA and northern Australia. These sea snakes have similar life history strategies and ecologies as well as overlapping distributions across the Torres Strait, a well-known biogeographic feature. We analysed two mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) fragments and 10 microsatellite loci using traditional population genetic approaches and used Bayesian clustering methods to examine species- specific phylogenetic relationships, genetic diversities, and population genetic structures. For both species, we found a consistent lack of significant genetic variation among sampling sites across the Gulf of Carpentaria (GOC) and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Similarly, Bayesian clustering showed no to weak genetic partitioning across the historical Torres Strait land bridge. Both species sampled in Australia displayed population expansion signatures in tests using mtDNA and microsatellite markers. We conclude that the phylogeographic and population genetic patterns of these sea snake species do not align with the Torres Strait land bridge. This lack of population genetic structure departs from previous findings on Aipysurus sea snakes and may be linked to the association of Hydrophis species to soft sediment habitats typically found across northern Australia. These divergent patterns between the sea snake groups present the importance of considering taxon-specific attributes in formulating conservation strategies.

Item ID: 76563
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1948-6596
Keywords: Coral triangle, Hydrophis, Indian ocean, Phylogeography, Population genetics, Sea snakes
Copyright Information: © the authors, CC-BY 4.0 license.
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2023 01:17
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310402 Biogeography and phylogeography @ 50%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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