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Mol Ecol. 2004 Aug;13(8):2223-33.

Rapid recovery of genetic diversity of dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus L.) populations after local extinction and recolonization contradicts predictions from life-history characteristics.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK.


The dogwhelk Nucella lapillus is a predatory marine gastropod populating North Atlantic rocky shores. As with many other gastropod species, N. lapillus was affected by tributyltin (TBT) pollution during the 1970s and 1980s, when local populations became extinct. After a partial ban on TBT in the United Kingdom in 1987, vacant sites have been recolonized. N. lapillus lacks a planktonic larval stage and is therefore expected to have limited dispersal ability. Relatively fast recolonization of some sites, however, contradicts this assumption. We compared levels of genetic diversity and genetic structuring between recolonized sites and sites that showed continuous population at three localities across the British Isles. No significant genetic effects of extinction/recolonization events were observed in SW Scotland and NE England. In SW England we observed a decrease in genetic diversity and an increase in genetic structure in recolonized populations. This last result could be an artefact, however, due to the superposition of other local factors influencing the genetic structuring of dogwhelk populations. We conclude that recolonization of vacant sites was accomplished by a relatively high number of individuals originating from several source populations (the 'migrant-pool' model of recolonization), implying that movements are more widespread than expected on the basis of development mode alone. Comparison with published data on genetic structure of marine organisms with contrasted larval dispersal supports this hypothesis. Our results also stress the importance of local factors (geographical or ecological) in determining genetic structure of dogwhelk populations.

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