Hodel, R. G. J., L. L. Knowles, S. F. McDaniel, A. C. Payton, J. F. Dunaway, P. S. Soltis, and D. E. Soltis. 2018. Terrestrial species adapted to sea dispersal: Differences in propagule dispersal of two Caribbean mangroves. Molecular Ecology 27:4612–4626. [View on publisher’s site]
A central goal of comparative phylogeography is to understand how species‐specific traits interact with geomorphological history to govern the geographic distribution of genetic variation within species. One key biotic trait with an immense impact on the spatial patterns of intraspecific genetic differentiation is dispersal. Here, we quantify how species‐specific traits directly related to dispersal affect genetic variation in terrestrial organisms with adaptations for dispersal by sea, not land—the mangroves of the Caribbean. We investigate the phylogeography of white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa, Combretaceae) and red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle, Rhizophoraceae) using chloroplast genomes and nuclear markers (thousands of RAD‐Seq loci) from individuals throughout the Caribbean. Both coastal tree species have viviparous propagules that can float in salt water for months, meaning they are capable of dispersing long distances. Spatially explicit tests of the role of ocean currents on patterning genetic diversity revealed that ocean currents act as a mechanism for facilitating dispersal, but other means of moving genetic material are also important. We measured pollen‐ vs. propagule‐mediated gene flow and discovered that in white mangroves, seeds were more important for promoting genetic connectivity between populations, but in red mangroves, the opposite was true: pollen contributed more. This result challenges our concept of the importance of both proximity to ocean currents for moving mangrove seeds and the extent of long‐distance pollen dispersal. This study also highlights the importance of spatially explicit quantification of both abiotic (ocean currents) and biotic (dispersal) factors contributing to gene flow to understand fully the phylogeographic histories of species.