Strong population differentiation of softshell clams (Mya arenaria) sampled across seven biogeographic marine ecoregions: possible selection and isolation by distance
Twenty-two Mya arenaria samples spanning seven marine ecoregions mostly situated in the Cold Temperate Northwest Atlantic (CTNA) biogeographic province were collected between 2001 and 2010 and genotyped at seven highly polymorphic microsatellite loci to test for population differentiation. Results showed strong regional differentiation with six genetic clusters: (1) Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL), (2) Magdalen Archipelago, (3) Southern GSL, (4) Lower Atlantic Canada, (5) US Coasts and (6) Northern Europe. Population structure was supported no matter the statistical approach and generally does not reflect the geographical limits of marine ecoregions. A latitudinal cline in allelic richness provides evidence for a northward post-glacial expansion range for this species. While geographical distance explains the genetic variation detected in southern CTNA, increased heterogeneity observed in northern CTNA can be explained by isolation by distance, marine landscaping and presumable selective processes acting at the Mar5 locus. Exclusion of Mar5 from analyses resulted in the detection of three genetic clusters instead of six.