Species populations are connected to each other through both movement of adults (migration) and eggs, larvae and juveniles (dispersal). If populations become isolated from one another (i.e. are no longer connected), then through genetic mutation, drift and natural selection, they may become so different that they evolve into new biological species. Understanding how populations become isolated is critical to understanding the process of speciation. In the marine environment, many species do not move as adults (e.g. corals) or move very slowly (sea urchins). This means that for different adult populations to remain connected they rely on dispersal of early life history stages. Most marine species have a larval stage that lives in the plankton for a period of time, moving with the currents, before settling in a new area. It is larval dispersal that keeps distant populations connected. So understanding patterns of larval dispersal is important to understanding connectivity.
In the deep-sea (>200m) the bathyal region of the continental slope has been identified as supporting high species richness and being an area where the rate of origination of new species may also be high. The reasons for this are not clear, but given the importance of connectivity to population isolation and speciation, it follows that the key to understanding patterns of species diversity in this region lies in understanding connectivity. New research has suggested that because the speed of the currents that carry larvae decreases as you go deeper, larvae might not be able to travel as far, leading to a greater tendency for populations at bathyal depths to become isolated over a given distance, and thus increasing the chances of speciation.