Original Paper

Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 395-406

First online:

Population genetics of Haminoea (Haloa) japonica Pilsbry, 1895, a widespread non-indigenous sea slug (Mollusca: Opisthobranchia) in North America and Europe

  • Dieta HansonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University
  • , Yayoi HiranoAffiliated withGraduate School of Science, Chiba University
  • , Ángel ValdésAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University Email author 

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Haminoea japonica is an opisthobranch mollusk with a large non-indigenous range. This species is a vector for a parasite that causes the human skin disease cercarial dermatitis, and may have negative effects on populations of native species. Molecular evidence from the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I gene and the histone 3 nuclear gene indicates that previously published morphology-based hypotheses on the spread of H. japonica out of Japan are correct. The most likely explanation for the current range of the species, which includes Japan, Korea, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and the USA is a recent, human-mediated dispersal from Japanese populations. The highest levels of nucleotide and haplotype diversity are found in Japan. Non-indigenous populations have low levels of genetic diversity (indicating bottlenecking). Haplotypes that were detected in the non-indigenous range of H. japonica have only been found in two localities in the native range; these two localities are in north-eastern Japan. In addition, the haplotype network structure and Spatial Analysis of Molecular Variance results confirm the origins of non-indigenous populations most likely trace to north-eastern Japan, which is where most Pacific oyster exports to North America also originated. Because there are no major shipping ports in north-eastern Japan, ballast water is less likely to be the mechanism of dispersal. The results of this study provide important data for the development of policies and regulations aimed to prevent further spread of this species in non-indigenous ranges.


Haplotype network Vector Dispersal pathway Opisthobranchia Molecular phylogeny Population genetics