Natural disturbances often destroy local populations and can considerably affect the genetic properties of these populations. The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami greatly damaged local populations of various coastal organisms, including the mud snail Batillaria attramentaria, which was an abundant macroinvertebrate on the tidal flats in the Tohoku region. To evaluate the impact of the tsunami on the ecology and population genetic properties of these snails, we monitored the density, shell size, and microsatellite DNA variation of B. attramentaria for more than ten years (2005-2015) throughout the disturbance event. We found that the density of snails declined immediately after the tsunami. Bayesian inference of the genetically effective population size (N e) demonstrated that the N e declined by 60-99% at the study sites exposed to the tsunami. However, we found that their genetic diversity was not significantly reduced after the tsunami. The maintenance of genetic diversity is essential for long-term survival of local populations, and thus, the observed genetic robustness could play a key role in the persistence of snail populations in this region which has been devastated by similar tsunamis every 500-800 years. Our findings have significant implications for understanding the sustainability of populations damaged by natural disturbances.
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