Recent glaciation covered the full extent of rocky intertidal habitat along the coasts of New England and the Canadian Maritimes. To test whether this glaciation in fact caused wholesale extinction of obligate rocky intertidal invertebrates, and thus required a recolonization from Europe, we compared American and European populations using allelic diversity and techniques adapted from coalescent theory. Mitochondrial DNA sequences were collected from amphi-Atlantic populations of three cold-temperate obligate rocky intertidal species (a barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides, and two gastropods, Nucella lapillus and Littorina obtusata) and three cold-temperate habitat generalist species (a seastar, Asterias rubens; a mussel, Mytilus edulis, and an isopod, Idotea balthica). For many of these species we were able to estimate the lineage-specific mutation rate based on trans-Arctic divergences between Pacific and Atlantic taxa. These data indicate that some obligate rocky intertidal taxa have colonized New England from European populations. However, the patterns of persistence in North America indicate that other life-history traits, including mechanisms of dispersal, may be more important for surviving dramatic environmental and climatic change.
Corresponding Editor: R. Burton