Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 153–162 | Cite as

Patella aspera and P. ulyssiponensis: genetic evidence of speciation in the North-east Atlantic

  • L. I. WeberEmail author
  • S. J. Hawkins
Research Article


The group of subspecies of Patella ulyssiponensis, described by Christiaens, was widely known as Patella aspera until recently. The group extends throughout the Mediterranean, on all Macaronesian islands, along the North African coast, and in Europe, as far north as southern Norway. Throughout its range it displays great variation in shell sculpture and colour. The aim of this work was to re-examine the various subspecies proposed by Christiaens and, genetically, to test the hypothesis that European continental populations belong to a different species than the one composed by Macaronesian (north-west African) populations. In the present work, this group was studied by allozyme electrophoresis of 21 loci and by six morphological variables. The monomorphic locus of malate dehydrogenase (Mdh-1) was found to be diagnostic for distinguishing European continental populations from those of north-west African archipelagos, confirming the specific status of both groups. The allele observed at this locus in the Macaronesian populations was novel, while European continental populations showed a plesiomorphic one, shared with all other north-west Atlantic patellids with the exception of Patina pellucida, suggesting a more recent origin of the Macaronesian species from the continental forms. Both species showed a genetic identity of 0.730±0.061, which allowed rough estimations of 6.5–3 Mya since speciation. The subspecies Patella ulyssiponensis deserta described by Christiaens was not confirmed by our genetic data. Other loci (glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and the second locus of lactate dehydrogenase) were partially diagnostic, in which both species showed different most common alleles. Morphologically, both species are easily recognised by shell characters and the results agree with previous findings, that continental populations are more homogeneous in shell morphology and radula characters than populations from the Macaronesia. This work supports retention of the earliest valid name, Patella ulyssiponensis Gmelin, with Lisbon, Portugal as type locality, for the European continental species, and Patella aspera Röding for the Macaronesian populations. Population subdivision within species was measured by theta, the estimator of Fst, showing in both P. aspera and P. ulyssiponensis a high degree of genetic structuring (θ=0.226 and 0.182, respectively) mostly explained by the large distances separating the populations within species.


Canonical Discriminant Analysis Continental Population Diagnostic Locus Canonical Space Madeira Archipelago 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are very grateful to Norberto Sepa, Thomas Dellinger, Federica Pannacciulli, Mike Bates, Ana Rita Pinto, and Jeremy Clinton for collecting samples from the Azores, Selvagens Islands, Cellar Beach in Wales, Port Erin, Deserta Grande, and from Gibraltar, respectively. Thanks are due to Helen Martins and Ricardo Santos for support in the Azores. Many thanks to Dr. J.P. Thorpe, who provided facilities at Port Erin Marine Laboratory. Thanks also to two anonymous referees who contributed valuable comments. S.J.H. was supported by a grant from the British Council and worked in the University of the Azores, Department of Oceanography and Fisheries, the University of Madeira and the University of La Laguna, Tenerife. S.J.H. was also supported by the British Council for collection trips in the Azores and Madeira and by the Azorean Regional Government. S.J.H. is funded by NERC grant in aid to the Marine Biological Association. We declare that all the experiments carried out during this investigation comply with current Isle of Man and UK laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Port Erin Marine LaboratoryUniversity of LiverpoolIsle of Man
  2. 2.Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, CTTMarUniversidade do Vale do Itajaí – UNIVALIBrazil
  3. 3.The Marine Biological Association of the United KingdomPlymouthUK
  4. 4.Biodiversity and Ecology Division, School of Biological ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonUK

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