Phylogeographic studies designed to estimate rates and patterns of genetic differentiation within species often reveal unexpected and graphically striking cases of allele or haplotype sharing between species (introgression) via hybridization and backcrossing. Does introgression between species significantly influence population genetic structure relative to more conventional sources of differentiation (drift) and similarity (dispersal) among populations within species? Here we use mtDNA sequences from four species in two genera of sea urchins and sea stars to quantify the relative magnitude of gene flow across oceans and across species boundaries in the context of the trans-Arctic interchange of marine organisms between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In spite of the much smaller distances between sympatric congeners, rates of gene flow between sympatric species via heterospecific gamete interactions were small and significantly lower than gene flow across oceans via dispersal of planktonic larvae. We conclude that, in these cases at least, larvae are more effective than gametes as vectors of gene flow.
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