, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 191-199

Genetic differentiation in a pelagic crustacean (Meganyctiphanes norvegica: Euphausiacea) from the North East Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea

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Meganyctiphanes norvegica (M. Sars)is a pelagic crustacean that plays a key role in marine food webs of North Atlantic Ocean and marginal seas. We studied eight population samples collected in the European Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. By means of single strand conformation polymorphism analysis (SSCP) and direct sequencing, we investigated a segment of 158 base pairs of the mitochondrial gene coding for the subunit 1 of NADH dehydrogenase. We found 12 sequence variants among the 385 individuals studied. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that 14.75% of the total genetic variability was explained by differences between populations, thus indicating absence of panmixia for these populations. Pairwise comparisons revealed three distinct genetic pools: the first one represented by Cadiz Bay, the second one by the Ligurian Sea, and the third one included all the NE Atlantic samples. We also investigated one population from the Alboran Sea (within the Mediterranean basin, east of the Strait of Gibraltar). This population was found to be genetically intermediate between the NE Atlantic samples and the Ligurian sample, suggesting that the restriction to the gene flow is not associated with the Strait of Gibraltar, but possibly with the Oran–Almeria oceanographic front. The present work indicates that M. norvegica, although endowed with a high dispersal capacity because of its pelagic habit, can develop separate breeding units inside the same oceanic basin (the Atlantic). Furthermore, the Ligurian sample should be considered as a distinct evolutionary entity, separated from the Atlantic population.

Received: 2 May 1999 / Accepted: 26 November 1999