, Volume 139, Issue 7, pp 855-869
Date: 08 Jul 2011

Phylogeography of the red coral (Corallium rubrum): inferences on the evolutionary history of a temperate gorgonian

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Abstract

The red coral Corallium rubrum (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) is an exploited, long-lived sessile species from the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent coastline in the Atlantic Ocean. Surveys of genetic variation using microsatellites have shown that populations of C. rubrum are characterized by strong differentiation at the local scale but a study of the phylogeography of this species was still lacking. Here, we used seven polymorphic microsatellite loci, together with sequence data from an intron of the elongation factor 1 (EF1) gene, to investigate the genetic structure of C. rubrum across its geographical range in the western Mediterranean Sea and in the Adriatic Sea. The EF1 sequences were also used to analyse the consequences of demographic fluctuations linked with past environmental change. Clustering analysis with microsatellite loci highlighted three to seven genetic groups with the distinction of North African and Adriatic populations; this distinction appeared significant with AMOVA and differentiation tests. Microsatellite and EF1 data extended the isolation by distance pattern previously observed for this species at the western Mediterranean scale. EF1 sequences confirmed the genetic differentiation observed between most samples with microsatellites. A statistical parsimony network of EF1 haplotypes provided no evidence of high sequence divergence among regions, suggesting no long-term isolation. Selective neutrality tests on microsatellites and EF1 were not significant but should be interpreted with caution in the case of EF1 because of the low sample sizes for this locus. Our results suggest that recent Quaternary environmental fluctuations had a limited impact on the genetic structure of C. rubrum.