López-Márquez, Violeta; Templado, José ; Buckley, David; Marino, Ilaria; Boscari, Elisa; Micu, Dragos; Zane, Lorenzo; Machordom, Annie. Frontiers in Genetics : doi:10.3389/fgene.2019.00177 (2019) DIGITAL CSIC
Genetic connectivity studies are essential to understand species diversity and genetic structure and to assess the role of potential factors affecting connectivity, thus enabling sound management and conservation strategies. Here, we analyzed the patterns of genetic variability in the marine snail Gibbula divaricata from five coastal locations in the central-south Adriatic Sea (central Mediterranean) and one in the adjacent northern Ionian Sea, using 21 described polymorphic microsatellite loci. Observed and expected heterozygosity varied from 0.582 to 0.635 and 0.684 to 0.780, respectively. AMOVA analyses showed that 97% of genetic variation was observed within populations. Nevertheless, significant, although small, genetic differentiation was found among nearly all of the pairwise FST comparisons. Over a general pattern of panmixia, three groups of populations were identified: eastern Adriatic populations, western Adriatic populations, and a third group represented by the single northern Ionian Sea population. Nonetheless, migration and gene flow were significant between these groups. Gibbula divaricata is thought to have a limited dispersal capacity related to its lecithotrophic trochophore larval stage. Our results indicated high levels of self-recruitment and gene flow that is mainly driven through coastline dispersion, with populations separated by the lack of suitable habitats or deep waters. This stepping-stone mode of dispersion together with the high levels of self-recruitment could lead to higher levels of population structuring and differentiation along the Adriatic Sea. Large effective population sizes and episodic events of long-distance dispersal might be responsible for the weak differentiation observed in the analyzed populations. In summary, the circulation system operating in this region creates natural barriers for dispersion that, together with lifehistory traits and habitat requirements, certainly affect connectivity in G. divaricata. However, this scenario of potential differentiation seems to be overridden by sporadic events of long-distance dispersal across barriers and large effective population sizes.