Proceedings of the royal society b-biological sciences vol:272 issue:1568 pages:1129-1137
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) has been a prime example of the panmixia paradigm because of its extraordinary adaptation to the North Atlantic gyral system, semelparous spawning in the Sargasso Sea and long trans-oceanic migration. Recently, this view was challenged by the suggestion of a genetic structure characterized by an isolation-by-distance (IBD) pattern. This is only likely if spawning subpopulations are spatially and/or temporally separated, followed by non-random larval dispersal. A limitation of previous genetic work on eels is the lack of replication over time to test for temporal stability of genetic structure. Here, we hypothesize that temporal genetic variation plays a significant role in explaining the spatial structure reported earlier for this species. We tested this by increasing the texture of geographical sampling and by including temporal replicates. Overall genetic differentiation among samples was low, highly significant and comparable with earlier studies (FST = 0.0014; p < 0.01). On the other hand, and in sharp contrast with current understandings, hierarchical analyses revealed no significant inter-location genetic heterogeneity and hence no IBD. Instead, genetic variation among temporal samples within sites clearly exceeded the geographical component. Our results provide support for the panmixia hypothesis and emphasize the importance of temporal replication when assessing population structure of marine fish species.