The population genetic structure of the urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii in New Zealand with links to Australia

L. J. Thomas, L. Liggins, S. C. Banks, L. B. Beheregaray, M. Liddy, G. A. McCulloch, J. M. Waters, L. Carter, M. Byrne, R. A. Cumming, M. D. Lamare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The diadematid sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii occurs in Australia and New Zealand and has undergone recent southward range extension in Australia as a result of regional warming. Clarifying the population genetic structure of this species across its New Zealand range would allow a better understanding of recent and future mechanisms driving range changes in the species. Here, we use microsatellite DNA data to assess connectivity and genetic structure in 385 individuals from 14 locations across the Australian and New Zealand ranges of the species. We detected substantial genetic differentiation among C. rodgersii populations from Australia and New Zealand. However, the population from Port Stephens (located north of Newcastle), Australia, strongly clustered with New Zealand samples. This suggests that the New Zealand populations recently originated from this area, likely via larval transport in the Tasman Front flow that arises in this region. The weak population genetic structure and relatively low genetic diversity detected in New Zealand (global Fst = 0.0021) relative to Australia (global Fst = 0.0339) is consistent with the former population’s inferred history of recent climate-driven expansion. Population-level inbreeding is low in most populations, but were higher in New Zealand (global Fis = 0.0833) than in Australia (global Fis = 0.0202), suggesting that self-recruitment is playing an increasingly important role in the New Zealand region. Our results suggest that C. rodgersii is likely to spread southwards as ocean temperatures increase; therefore, it is crucial that researchers develop a clearer understanding of how New Zealand ecosystems will be reshaped by this species (and others) under climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • urchin
  • Centrostephanus rodgersii
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • climate change
  • regional warming
  • ocean temperatures
  • ecosystems


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