Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 26, Issue 14, pp 3255–3274 | Cite as

Lifting the curtain on the freshwater mussel diversity of the Italian Peninsula and Croatian Adriatic coast

  • Elsa FroufeEmail author
  • Manuel Lopes-Lima
  • Nicoletta Riccardi
  • Serena Zaccara
  • Isabella Vanetti
  • Jasna Lajtner
  • Amílcar Teixeira
  • Simone Varandas
  • Vincent Prié
  • Alexandra Zieritz
  • Ronaldo Sousa
  • Arthur E. Bogan
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Coastal and marine biodiversity


Freshwater mussels of the order Unionida have been dramatically declining globally. Despite their ecological importance, conservation of these animals has been hindered by unresolved taxonomy and a lack of data on the distribution and status of populations, especially in southern Europe. Although the Italian Peninsula has been noted as a centre of endemism and one of the major refugia of the glacial ages for several taxa, few studies have been performed on the genetic diversity of Unionida. Most importantly, the taxonomic status of several freshwater mussel populations of the Italian Peninsula is still unresolved. Here we present the first comprehensive dataset for the Unionida of the region spanning Italy and the coastal Croatian region (west of the Dinaric Alps). In total, 191 specimens were collected (85 Anodonta, 64 Unio, 17 Microcondylaea bonellii and 25 Sinanodonta woodiana) from 34 sites across the Italian Peninsula and coastal Croatian river basins for molecular identification (COI, 16S and 28S). Genetic analyses were performed to understand major phylogenetic and phylogeographic patterns. Seven species were detected: three Anodonta species (A. anatina, A. cygnea and A. exulcerata), two Unio species (U. mancus and U. elongatulus), Microcondylaea bonellii, and the invasive Sinanodonta woodiana. The presence of three endemic species (A. exulcerata, U. elongatulus and M. bonellii) confirms the importance of the region as a centre of endemism for freshwater mussels. The Apennine Mountains act as an important biogeographic barrier.


Unionida Italy Croatia Biogeography Genetic diversity Conservation 



This work was partially supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under grants SFRH/BPD/108445/2015 (EF) and SFRH/BD/115728/2016 (MLL). Cindy Bogan reviewed a draft of this manuscript. We are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful remarks and suggestions that improved the quality of the manuscript; and to the Göteborg Natural History Museum for the loan of Swedish tissue samples.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elsa Froufe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Manuel Lopes-Lima
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicoletta Riccardi
    • 4
  • Serena Zaccara
    • 4
    • 5
  • Isabella Vanetti
    • 5
  • Jasna Lajtner
    • 6
  • Amílcar Teixeira
    • 7
  • Simone Varandas
    • 8
  • Vincent Prié
    • 9
  • Alexandra Zieritz
    • 10
  • Ronaldo Sousa
    • 11
  • Arthur E. Bogan
    • 12
  1. 1.CIIMAR/CIMAR — Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental ResearchUniversity of PortoMatosinhosPortugal
  2. 2.CIBIO/InBIO - Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic ResourcesUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal
  3. 3.IUCN SSC Mollusc Specialist GroupCambridgeEngland, UK
  4. 4.CNR - Institute for Ecosystems StudiesVerbania Pallanza (VB)Italy
  5. 5.DISTA - Department of Theoretical and Applied SciencesUniversity of InsubriaVareseItaly
  6. 6.Division of Zoology, Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia
  7. 7.CIMO-ESA-IPB - Mountain Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Polytechnic Institute of BragançaBragançaPortugal
  8. 8.Forestry Department, CITAB-UTAD - Centre for Research and Technology of Agro-Environment and Biological SciencesUniversity of Trás-os-Montes and Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  9. 9.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département Systématique et Evolution, ISyEB (UMR 7205 CNRS/UPMC/MNHN/EPHE)ParisFrance
  10. 10.School of Environmental and Geographical SciencesUniversity of Nottingham Malaysia CampusSemenyihMalaysia
  11. 11.CBMA - Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology, Department of BiologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  12. 12.Research LaboratoryNorth Carolina State Museum of Natural SciencesRaleighUSA

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