Marine Biology

, 166:143 | Cite as

Significant population methylation divergence and local environmental influence in an invasive ascidian Ciona intestinalis at fine geographical scales

  • Ping Ni
  • Kieran J. Murphy
  • Russell C. Wyeth
  • Cory D. Bishop
  • Shiguo Li
  • Aibin ZhanEmail author
Original Paper


Biological invasion provides a promising system for studying rapid environmental accommodation and adaptation in the wild. Mounting evidence indicates that epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation play crucial roles in rapid local accommodation and adaptation. Thus, we hypothesize that different local environments can trigger methylation divergence among marine invasive populations at fine geographical scales. In this study, we examined population methylation patterns in the invasive ascidian, Ciona intestinalis, along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, where significant temperature differences exist at defined locations along the coast. Using the methylation-sensitive amplification polymorphism (MSAP) technique, we observed a high level of intra- and inter-population diversity, as well as significant population methylation differentiation. We identified a correlation between local environments and methylation patterns, and further consistently recovered 14 temperature-related subepiloci by using multiple analyses. All these results demonstrate a substantial role of temperature in shaping population methylation patterns and an epigenetic response to environmental changes during range expansions. The complex fine-scale methylation structures among populations of C. intestinalis observed in this study suggest that multiple biotic and abiotic factors, as well as their interactions, should be further investigated to reveal epigenetic mechanisms of local accommodation and adaptation during biological invasions in marine ecosystems.



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31622011; 31772449) to AZ, Youth Innovation Promotion Association, Chinese Academy of Science (2018054) to SL, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program grant (M-13-01-002) to RCW, CDB and Dawn Sephton, a Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Graduate Scholarship to KJM, and the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia and its members who kindly allowed us to work on their mussel leases.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 137 kb)
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Supplementary material 6 (PDF 199 kb)
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Supplementary material 7 (PDF 188 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of BiologySt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada
  4. 4.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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