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The anchoring effect—long-term dormancy and genetic population structure

The ISME Journal (2018) | Download Citation


Understanding the genetic structure of populations is key to revealing past and present demographic and evolutionary processes in a species. In the past decade high genetic differentiation has been observed in many microbial species challenging the previous view of cosmopolitan distribution. Populations have displayed high genetic differentiation, even at small spatial scales, despite apparent high dispersal. Numerous species of microalgae have a life-history strategy that includes a long-term resting stage, which can accumulate in sediments and serve as refuge during adverse conditions. It is presently unclear how these seed banks affect the genetic structure of populations in aquatic environments. Here we provide a conceptual framework, using a simple model, to show that long-term resting stages have an anchoring effect on populations leading to increased genetic diversity and population differentiation in the presence of gene flow. The outcome that species with resting stages have a higher degree of genetic differentiation compared to species without, is supported by empirical data obtained from a systematic literature review. With this work we propose that seed banks in aquatic microalgae play an important role in the contradicting patterns of gene flow, and ultimately the adaptive potential and population dynamics in species with long-term resting stages.

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We want to thank all the authors of the papers which data was used in our diversity analysis. Raw microsatellite data from these papers were kindly provided by Deana Erdner, Mindy Richlen, Anke Kremp, Silvia Casabianca, Aliou Dia, Tilman Alpermann, Silke Van den Wyngeart, Tatiana Rynearson, Stacy Krueger-Hadfield, Nicolaus Adams, Griet Castelyn, Sylvie Tesson, Gustaaf Hallegraeff and Suellen Cook. We also want to thank Fabian Roger for valuable help with the diversity analysis. LS and PRJ were funded through the Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology at the University of Gothenburg ( and the Swedish Research Council. AG and JS were funded through Swedish Research Council Formas (219-2012-2070).

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  1. Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Box 461, Göteborg, SE, 40530, Sweden

    • Lisa Sundqvist
    • , Anna Godhe
    •  & Josefin Sefbom
  2. Department of Marine Sciences - Tjärnö, University of Gothenburg, Strömstad, SE, 45296, Sweden

    • Per R. Jonsson
  3. Department of Biology, Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281-S8, Gent, B-9000, Belgium

    • Josefin Sefbom


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Correspondence to Josefin Sefbom.

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