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Low genetic diversity and recent demographic expansion in the red starfish Echinaster sepositus (Retzius 1816)

García-Cisneros, ÁlexPalacín, CruzBen Khadra, YousraPérez-Portela, R.. Scientific Reports 6 : 33269 (2016)  DIGITAL CSIC

Understanding the phylogeography and genetic structure of populations and the processes responsible of patterns therein is crucial for evaluating the vulnerability of marine species and developing management strategies. In this study, we explore how past climatic events and ongoing oceanographic and demographic processes have shaped the genetic structure and diversity of the Atlanto- Mediterranean red starfish Echinaster sepositus. The species is relatively abundant in some areas of the Mediterranean Sea, but some populations have dramatically decreased over recent years due to direct extraction for ornamental aquariums and souvenir industries. Analyses across most of the distribution range of the species based on the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene and eight microsatellite loci revealed very low intraspecific genetic diversity. The species showed a weak genetic structure within marine basins despite the a priori low dispersal potential of its lecithotrophic larva. Our results also revealed a very recent demographic expansion across the distribution range of the species. The genetic data presented here indicate that the species might be highly vulnerable, due to its low intraspecific genetic diversity.