Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 827–837 | Cite as

Comparative phylogeography of six red algae along the Antarctic Peninsula: extreme genetic depletion linked to historical bottlenecks and recent expansion

  • Marie-Laure Guillemin
  • Hélène Dubrasquet
  • Janette Reyes
  • Myriam Valero
Original Paper


In the Southern Ocean, rapid climatic fluctuations during the Quaternary are thought to have induced range contractions and bottlenecks, thereby instigating genetic divergence and potentially even speciation of marine species. Specifically, ice scouring during glacial events may have had drastic impacts on seaweed communities, thus leading to genetic diversification between algal populations that persisted on the Antarctic shelf in small isolated refugia. Using the mitochondrial Cytochrome c Oxidase I (COI) gene and 279 individual macroalgal specimens collected from five geographic areas along the coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, we studied the genetic diversity of six commonly encountered species of red algae. All six algae were characterized by very low genetic diversity, and we found a significant signature of recent population expansion of a single haplotype encountered over more than 450 km. These results reflect the drastic impact of historical perturbations on populations of Antarctic seaweeds. We propose that genetic drift during a glacial bottleneck had a strong effect and could have been amplified by gene surfing effects during spatial expansion after ice sheet retreat. This led to the rapid spread of a single haplotype in the recolonized region. Unfortunately, the very low level of genetic diversity encountered did not allow us to precisely pinpoint the putative location of the glacial refugium inhabited by Antarctic seaweeds. Despite this, we propose that future studies should test the role of active volcanic areas, such as Deception Island, as long-term refugia in the region.


Antarctic Peninsula South Shetland COI Rhodophyta Glaciation Pleistocene Refugia 



This research was supported by the Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH) T_16-11 and RG_15-16 projects, and sampling in King George Island was funded by the Project Anillo ART1101 from the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientıfíca y Tecnológica. Additional support came from the International Research Network “Diversity, Evolution, and Biotechnology of Marine Algae” (GDRI No. 0803) and from the Centro FONDAP IDEAL No. 15150003. The authors thank P. Brunning, J. L. Kappes, T. Heran, Y. Henriquez, and L. Vallejos for their help in the field. The authors would also like to thank the Chilean Navy (especially the captain and crew of the ships, Almirante Oscar Viel and Lautaro), the staff from the Chilean Army in the O’Higgins base and the Air Force of Chile (FACh) for the logistic support of our fieldwork in sub-Antarctica and Antarctica.

Supplementary material

300_2017_2244_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (169 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 169 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  2. 2.CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC University Paris VI, PUC, UACH, UMI 3614, Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of Algae, Station Biologique de RoscoffRoscoffFrance
  3. 3.Centro FONDAP de Investigación en Dinámica de Ecosistemas Marinos de Altas Latitudes (IDEAL)ValdiviaChile

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