Isolation-by-distance and genetic parentage analysis provide strikingly similar dispersal estimates in the coral reef fish, Elacatinus lori

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University of New Brunswick


Larval exchange among marine populations is a vital driver of population dynamics and has the potential to inform conservation actions, but accurately measuring dispersal remains challenging. Here, I test whether accurate dispersal estimates can be obtained indirectly from an isolation-by-distance (IBD) model in the coral reef fish Elacatinus lori by comparing indirect estimates to direct measurements from genetic parentage analyses. Using the IBD approach, the spread of the dispersal kernel, σ, was estimated to be 2.9 – 4.1 km, remarkably similar to σ measured directly through genetic parentage analyses (σ = 3.9 km). Additionally, sensitivity analyses revealed that the IBD dispersal estimates were robust to genetic marker type and uncertainty in effective population size. Taken together, these findings suggest that accurate dispersal estimates can be produced by indirect IBD methods. The results indicate that this indirect—and more feasible— approach may be broadly applicable to the study of marine larval dispersal.