High dispersal potential has maintained long-term population stability in the North Atlantic copepod Calanus finmarchicus

Jim Provan, Gemma E Beatty, Sianan L Keating, Christine A Maggs, Graham Savidge

Abstract

The cool-water copepod Calanus finmarchicus is a key species in North Atlantic marine ecosystems since it represents an important food resource for the developmental stages of several fish of major economic value. Over the last 40 years, however, data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey have highlighted a 70 per cent reduction in C. finmarchicus biomass, coupled with a gradual northward shift in the species's distribution, which have both been linked with climate change. To determine the potential for C. finmarchicus to track changes in habitat availability and maintain stable effective population sizes, we have assessed levels of gene flow and dispersal in current populations, as well as using a coalescent approach together with palaeodistribution modelling to elucidate the historical population demography of the species over previous changes in Earth's climate. Our findings indicate high levels of dispersal and a constant effective population size over the period 359 000–566 000 BP and suggest that C. finmarchicus possesses the capacity to track changes in available habitat, a feature that may be of crucial importance to the species's ability to cope with the current period of global climate change.

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Footnotes

    • Received July 31, 2008.
    • Accepted September 4, 2008.
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