Assessment of the Cape Cod phylogeographic break using the bamboo worm Clymenella torquata reveals the role of regional water masses in dispersal. Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous genetic studies suggest Cape Cod, MA, as a phylogenetic break for benthic marine invertebrates; however, diffuse sampling in this area has hindered fine-scale determination of the break's location and underlying causes. Furthermore, some species exhibit breaks in different places, and others exhibit no breaks in this region. We analyze the phylogeographic patterns of 2 mitochondrial genes from 10 populations of the bamboo worm Clymenella torquata (Annelida: Maldanidae) focused around Cape Cod but extending from the Bay of Fundy, Canada, to New Jersey. A common invertebrate along the US coast, C. torquata, possesses life-history characteristics that should make it sensitive to factors such as dispersal barriers, bottlenecks, and founder events. As an inhabitant of soft sediments, C. torquata offers a unique contrast to existing research dominated by organisms dwelling on hard substrates. Our genetic data show a clear phylogenetic break and a cline of haplotype frequencies from north to south. Fine-scale sampling of populations on Cape Cod, combined with other sampled populations, confirm that this distinct break is not on the Cape Cod peninsula itself but to the south near a boundary of oceanic water masses. Low levels of gene flow occur in these populations, in an asymmetric manner congruent with coastal current patterns. No significant effect of Pleistocene glaciation was seen in the pattern of genetic diversity over the sampled range.

publication date

  • January 2009