, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 233-246

Genetic structure of the flounders Platichthys flesus and P. stellatus at different geographic scales

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The genetic structure of the flounders Platichthys flesus L. and P. stellatus Pallas was investigated on different spatial scales through analysis of allozyme variation at 7 to 24 polymorphic loci in samples collected from different regions (Baltic Sea, North Sea, Brittany, Portugal, western Mediterranean, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea and Japan) in 1984 to 1987. No geographic variation was evident within a region. Some pattern of differentiation by distance was inferred within the Atlantic, while the Mediterranean comprised three geographically isolated populations and was itself geographically isolated from the Atlantic (fixed allele differences at up to three loci were found among P. flesus populations from the Atlantic, the western Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea and also P. stellatus from the coast of Japan). Sea temperature during the reproductive period probably acts as a barrier to gene flow between populations. Genetic distances among European flounder populations (P. flesus) were higher than, or of the same magnitude as, the genetic distance between Pacific (P. stellatus) and European flounder populations, suggesting that P. flesus is paraphyletic and/or there is no phylogenetic basis to recognising P. stellatus as a different species. The divergence between P. flesus and P. stellatus was thus inferred to be more recent than the divergence between the present P. flesus populations from the NE Atlantic and eastern Mediterranean. The eastern Mediterranean populations are thought to originate from the colonisation of the Mediterranean by a proto-P. flesus/P. stellatus ancestor, whereas the present western Mediterranean population has undergone a more recent colonisation event by P. flesus. Patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation, established on a smaller array of P. flesus samples, were in accordance with the geographic patterns inferred from the allozyme survey. In addition, they supported the hypothesis of a two-step colonisation of the western Mediterranean. These results contribute to our understanding of the biogeography of the Mediterranean marine fauna, especially the group of boreal remnants to which P. flesus belongs.