Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 5, pp 841–852

Genetic structure of hybrid mussel populations in the west of Ireland: two hypotheses revisited

Research Article


In Ireland, mussels on exposed rocky shores constitute an interbreeding mixture of two forms of mussels, the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, and the Mediterranean mussel, M. galloprovincialis. Results from an Irish study in the 1980s, using partially diagnostic allozyme markers, indicated that mussels higher up the shore were more galloprovincialis-like than those lower down. In this study we set out to test two hypotheses: (a) recruits arriving on the shore are composed of genetically distinct cohorts that settle preferentially at different levels on the shore, and maintain genetic distinctiveness into adulthood; (b) recruits are genetically homogeneous, but once settled they diverge genetically over time, due to within-habitat site specific-selection. The diagnostic Me 15/16 DNA marker was used to analyse the genetic composition of newly-settled spat recruiting to artificial substrates, which were placed at two-week intervals from May–October 2002, on the mid- and low shore areas of two exposed sites in Galway Bay. Adult mussels were also collected on each sampling date. Results did not support the preferential settlement hypothesis, i.e., the genetic composition of primary settlers (≤ 500 μm) was similar between tidal heights and shores. Neither was there evidence of post settlement selective mortality, as adults were genetically similar to settling spat. In spat and adults the frequency of the M. galloprovincialis allele was high (0.56–0.80), due to high frequencies of M. galloprovincialis (> 37%) and hybrid (> 33%) genotypes, and correspondingly low frequencies of the M. edulis genotype (< 11%). Adult mussels from a nearby sheltered estuarine site, while significantly different to exposed shore mussels, still had low frequencies of the M. edulis genotype (< 17%), indicating no apparent advantage for the genotype in this environment. There are indications that the genetic composition of mussels may be changing on the Atlantic coasts of Ireland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Ecology Research Group, Department of Life SciencesGalway-Mayo Institute of TechnologyGalwayIreland

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