, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 247-253

Genetic differentiation between morphotypes of the marine sponge Suberites ficus (Demospongiae: Hadromerida)

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Abstract

Sponges of three morphotypes of Suberites ficus (Johnston, 1842) were collected during February and March 1985 off the south-west of the Isle of Man, and were compared by using spicule size distributions and genetic allele frequencies of isozyme loci. The populations did not show any significant differences of spicule size or type, but could be easily differentiated into three separate species based on isozyme patterns. Samples of pale orange S. ficus growing on gastropod shells inhabited by hermit crabs (Pagurus spp.) were reproductively isolated from the redorange and the pale yellow colour morphs encrusting the bivalve Chlamys opercularis. These latter two colour morphs were genetically similar, but significant differences were observed at two of the 19 gene loci assayed. All the sponges studied were sympatric, and therefore the genetic differences, indicating reproductive isolation, are strong evidence for separate gene pools and, hence, that they are different species. The genetic identity between the two colour morphs of S. ficus on C. opercularis shells was 0.977, whilst between each of these and S. ficus on hermit crabs it was about 0.65. In all three species genetic variability was high, with mean expected and observed heterozygosity values per locus ranging from 0.17 to 0.36.