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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Aug;48(2):708-17. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.04.022. Epub 2008 Apr 24.

Phylogeography of the European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas): Influence of current oceanographical features and historical processes.

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  • 1Departament de Gen├Ętica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


The European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) is a suitable model organism to study the effects of past history and current oceanographic processes on the genetic diversity and population structure of marine species with a long-lived larval phase. A portion of the COI gene was sequenced in 227 individuals from 11 localities, covering most of the present distribution of the species. Divergence was found between Atlantic and Mediterranean regions, which could be explained by restricted gene flow between populations. Moreover, a principal component analysis detected differences within basins. The existence of genetic differentiation between Brittany and Ireland-Scotland populations could be accounted for by the large effect of the Gulf Stream, while mesoscale processes suffered by the incoming Atlantic waters could be responsible of genetic differentiation within the Mediterranean. Furthermore, historical processes could be responsible for a reduction on the overall genetic variability of P. elephas. The haplotypic distribution found in P. elephas, with the presence of one abundant haplotype and a large number of closely related haplotypes, is typical of species experiencing reduction in variability and subsequent expansions. Climatic fluctuations related to glacial cycles could explain the present level of variability and nucleotide diversity found. Interestingly, these glacial events do not seem to have the same impact in other species of the same genus. Our results indicate that recent glacial events could have had a lower impact on Palinurus mauritanicus, a congeneric species that presents an overlapping distribution area but is found in cooler waters than P. elephas.

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