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Mol Ecol 2006 Oct 01;1511:3303-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03000.x.
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Incomplete cryptic speciation between intertidal and subtidal morphs of Acrocnida brachiata (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) in the Northeast Atlantic.

Muths D , Davoult D , Gentil F , Jollivet D .

The brittle-star Acrocnida brachiata (Montagu) lives in sandy-bottom habitat of both intertidal and subtidal zones along the coasts of the northwestern Europe. An allozyme frequency-based survey (five enzyme loci) was combined with a mitochondrial (mt) COI haplotype analysis (598-bp sequences) on 17 populations to trace back past colonization pathways from the actual population structure of the species. Both genetic markers display a sharp genetic break between intertidal (clade I) and subtidal populations (clade S). This break corresponds to an allele frequency inversion at three enzyme loci (Hk, Pgm and Pgi) and a deep divergence of about 20% in mtCOI sequences between most of the intertidal populations and other samples. The geographic distribution of clade I seems to be more restricted than clade S as it is absent from the intertidal of the eastern English Channel and North Sea and may be replaced by clade S in south Brittany. Applying previously published rates of mutation, divergence between the two clades is estimated to pre-date 5 million years ago and may be due to allopatric speciation processes at the Mio-Pliocene transition. The occurrence of putative hybrids in a few localities, however, suggests incomplete cryptic speciation with secondary contact zones. The relative importance of colonization history vs. habitat specialization are discussed in the light of neutral evolution as tested from mtCOI gene sequences. While differential selection seems to have contributed little to the separation of the lineages, it may have played a role in the emergence of adaptive polymorphisms in the hybrid zone. Furthermore, congruent spatial patterns of differentiation were observed in both clades suggesting a recent increase in population size. These findings are in agreement with a recent expansion of the populations during or after the formation of the English Channel, from a southern refuge for the subtidal clade whereas the intertidal clade may have persisted further north. As previously suspected for a species with a very short pelagic larval phase, contemporary gene flow between distant or adjacent populations appears to be extremely reduced or even absent.

PubMed ID: 16968272
Article link: Mol Ecol

Genes referenced: ago1b LOC100887844 LOC582915 LOC763027 LOC764863