Founder effects drive the genetic structure of passively dispersed aquatic invertebrates
Populations of passively dispersed organisms in continental aquatic habitats typically show high levels of neutral genetic differentiation, despite their high dispersal capabilities. Several evolutionary factors, including founder events and local adaptation, and life cycle features such as high population growth rates and the presence of propagule banks, have been proposed to be responsible for this paradox. Here, we have modeled the colonization process in these organisms to assess the impact of migration rate, growth rate, population size, local adaptation and life-cycle features on their population genetic structure. Our simulation results show that the strongest effect on population structure is caused by persistent founder effects, resulting from the interaction of a few population founders, high population growth rates, large population sizes and the presence of diapausing egg banks. In contrast, the role of local adaptation, genetic hitchhiking and migration is limited to small populations in these organisms. Our results indicate that local adaptation could have different impact on genetic structure in different groups of zooplankters.