Patiria miniata, a broadcast-spawning sea star species with high dispersal potential, has a geographic range in the intertidal zone of the northeast Pacific Ocean from Alaska to California that is characterized by a large range gap in Washington and Oregon. We analyzed spatial genetic variation across the P. miniata range using multilocus sequence data (mtDNA, nuclear introns) and multilocus genotype data (microsatellites). We found a strong phylogeographic break at Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia that was not in the location predicted by the geographical distribution of the populations. However, this population genetic discontinuity does correspond to previously described phylogeographic breaks in other species. Northern populations from Alaska and Haida Gwaii were strongly differentiated from all southern populations from Vancouver Island and California. Populations from Vancouver Island and California were undifferentiated with evidence of high gene flow or very recent separation across the range disjunction between them. The surprising and discordant spatial distribution of populations and alleles suggests that historical vicariance (possibly caused by glaciations) and contemporary dispersal barriers (possibly caused by oceanographic conditions) both shape population genetic structure in this species.
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Vol. 63 • No. 12