Limited genetic variation and structure in softshell clams (Mya arenaria) across their native and introduced range
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- Strasser, C.A. & Barber, P.H. Conserv Genet (2009) 10: 803. doi:10.1007/s10592-008-9641-y
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To offset declines in commercial landings of the softshell clam, Myaarenaria, resource managers are engaged in extensive stocking of seed clams throughout its range in the northwest Atlantic. Because a mixture of native and introduced stocks can disrupt locally adapted genotypes, we investigated genetic structure in M.arenaria populations across its current distribution to test for patterns of regional differentiation. We sequenced mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I for a total of 212 individuals from 12 sites in the northwest Atlantic (NW Atlantic), as well as two introduced sites, the northeast Pacific (NE Pacific), and the North Sea Europe (NS Europe). Populations exhibited extremely low genetic variation, with one haplotype dominating (65–100%) at all sites sampled. Despite being introduced in the last 150–400 years, both NE Pacific and NS Europe populations had higher diversity measures than those in the NW Atlantic and both contained private haplotypes at frequencies of 10–27% consistent with their geographic isolation. While significant genetic structure (FST = 0.159, P < 0.001) was observed between NW Atlantic and NS Europe, there was no evidence for genetic structure across the pronounced environmental clines of the NW Atlantic. Reduced genetic diversity in mtDNA combined with previous studies reporting reduced genetic diversity in nuclear markers strongly suggests a recent population expansion in the NW Atlantic, a pattern that may result from the retreat of ice sheets during Pleistocene glacial periods. Lack of genetic diversity and regional genetic differentiation suggests that present management strategies for the commercially important softshell clam are unlikely to have a significant impact on the regional distribution of genetic variation, although the possibility of disrupting locally adapted stocks cannot be excluded.