Ocean current patterns drive the worldwide colonization of eelgrass (Zostera marina)

Nature Plants
By: , and 



Currents are unique drivers of oceanic phylogeography and thus determine the distribution of marine coastal species, along with past glaciations and sea-level changes. Here we reconstruct the worldwide colonization history of eelgrass (Zostera marina L.), the most widely distributed marine flowering plant or seagrass from its origin in the Northwest Pacific, based on nuclear and chloroplast genomes. We identified two divergent Pacific clades with evidence for admixture along the East Pacific coast. Two west-to-east (trans-Pacific) colonization events support the key role of the North Pacific Current. Time-calibrated nuclear and chloroplast phylogenies yielded concordant estimates of the arrival of Z. marina in the Atlantic through the Canadian Arctic, suggesting that eelgrass-based ecosystems, hotspots of biodiversity and carbon sequestration, have only been present there for ~243 ky (thousand years). Mediterranean populations were founded ~44 kya, while extant distributions along western and eastern Atlantic shores were founded at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (~19 kya), with at least one major refuge being the North Carolina region. The recent colonization and five- to sevenfold lower genomic diversity of the Atlantic compared to the Pacific populations raises concern and opportunity about how Atlantic eelgrass might respond to rapidly warming coastal oceans.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Ocean current patterns drive the worldwide colonization of eelgrass (Zostera marina)
Series title Nature Plants
DOI 10.1038/s41477-023-01464-3
Volume 9
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Ecosystems
Description 14 p.
First page 1207
Last page 1220
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