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Advances in the aquatic sciences

Evidence of genetic subdivision among populations of blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra Leach) in Tasmania

Nepelle Temby A , Karen Miller A B C D and Craig Mundy B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Marine Research Laboratory, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 49, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

C Present address: Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 77, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(8) 733-742
Submitted: 30 January 2007  Accepted: 13 June 2007   Published: 27 August 2007


The scale over which populations exchange individuals (migration) is central to ecology, and important for understanding recruitment and connectivity in commercial species. Field studies indicate that blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) have localised larval dispersal. However, genetic studies show differentiation only at large scales, suggesting dispersal over more than 100 km. Most genetic studies, however, have failed to test for subdivision at scales equivalent to field experiments. We used microsatellite DNA to investigate genetic structure at small scales (100 m to 10 km) in blacklip abalone in south-east Tasmania. We found significant subdivision (FST = 0.021; P < 0.05) among sites, and hierarchical FST analysis indicated 64% of genetic variation was at the smallest scale, supporting field studies that concluded larval dispersal is less than 100 m. We also tested if genetic differentiation varied predictably with wave exposure, but found no evidence that differences between adjacent sites in exposed locations varied from differences between adjacent sites in sheltered populations (mean FST = 0.016 and 0.017 respectively). Our results show the usefulness of microsatellites for abalone, but also identify sampling scales as critical in understanding gene flow and dispersal of abalone larvae in an ecologically relevant framework. Importantly, our results indicate that H. rubra populations are self-recruiting, which will be important for the management of this commercial species.

Additional keywords: abalone, fisheries management, gene flow, habitat, larval dispersal, microsatellite DNA.


This research was undertaken as part of a BSc honours degree by NT under the supervision of KM and CM. The research was funded through the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute (TAFI). We thank Mike Porteus, Stewart Dickson and Chris Jarvis for their help with sample collection and Adam Smolenski for assistance in the laboratory. We also thank Nick Elliott for helpful advice regarding suitable microsatellite loci to use for the present study.


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Appendix 1.  Allele frequencies at three microsatellite loci for Haliotis rubra populations from 18 sites along the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia
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