Research Summary: Glacial History of the North Atlantic Marine Snail, Littorina saxatilis, Inferred from Distribution of Mitochondrial DNA Lineages


The North Atlantic intertidal gastropod, Littorina saxatilis (Olivi, 1792), exhibits extreme morphological variation between and within geographic regions and has become a model for studies of local adaptation; yet a comprehensive analysis of the species’ phylogeography is lacking. Here, we examine phylogeographic patterns of the species’ populations in the North Atlantic and one remote Mediterranean population using sequence variation in a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (607 bp). We found that, as opposed to many other rocky intertidal species, L. saxatilis has likely had a long and continuous history in the Northwest Atlantic, including survival during the last glacial maximum (LGM), possibly in two refugia. In the Northeast Atlantic, several areas likely harboured refugial populations that recolonized different parts of this region after glacial retreat, resulting in strong population structure. However, the outlying monomorphic Venetian population is likely a recent anthropogenic introduction from northern Europe and not a remnant of an earlier wider distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. Overall, our detailed phylogeography of L. saxatilis adds an important piece to the understanding of Pleistocene history in North Atlantic marine biota as well as being the first study to describe the species’ evolutionary history in its natural range. The latter contribution is noteworthy because the snail has recently become an important model species for understanding evolutionary processes of speciation; thus our work provides integral information for such endeavours.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 11-March-2011

Author(s): Panova M., Blakeslee A., Miller A., Mäkinen T., Ruiz G., Johannesson K., André C.


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