, 139:855 | Cite as

Phylogeography of the red coral (Corallium rubrum): inferences on the evolutionary history of a temperate gorgonian

  • D. Aurelle
  • J.-B. Ledoux
  • C. Rocher
  • P. Borsa
  • A. Chenuil
  • J.-P. Féral


The red coral Corallium rubrum (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) is an exploited, long-lived sessile species from the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent coastline in the Atlantic Ocean. Surveys of genetic variation using microsatellites have shown that populations of C. rubrum are characterized by strong differentiation at the local scale but a study of the phylogeography of this species was still lacking. Here, we used seven polymorphic microsatellite loci, together with sequence data from an intron of the elongation factor 1 (EF1) gene, to investigate the genetic structure of C. rubrum across its geographical range in the western Mediterranean Sea and in the Adriatic Sea. The EF1 sequences were also used to analyse the consequences of demographic fluctuations linked with past environmental change. Clustering analysis with microsatellite loci highlighted three to seven genetic groups with the distinction of North African and Adriatic populations; this distinction appeared significant with AMOVA and differentiation tests. Microsatellite and EF1 data extended the isolation by distance pattern previously observed for this species at the western Mediterranean scale. EF1 sequences confirmed the genetic differentiation observed between most samples with microsatellites. A statistical parsimony network of EF1 haplotypes provided no evidence of high sequence divergence among regions, suggesting no long-term isolation. Selective neutrality tests on microsatellites and EF1 were not significant but should be interpreted with caution in the case of EF1 because of the low sample sizes for this locus. Our results suggest that recent Quaternary environmental fluctuations had a limited impact on the genetic structure of C. rubrum.


Red coral Phylogeography Genetic structure EPIC Microsatellites 



We thank Joaquim Garrabou, Olivier Bianchimani, Christian Marschal, Pierre Chevaldonné, Frédéric Zuberer, Roland Graille and Thierry Pérez for providing samples and Didier Forcioli and Helmut Zibrowius for useful comments. We thank Charlotte Roby, Kenza Mokhtar-Jamaï, Emmanuelle Renard, Carole Borchiellini, Emilie Egea, Gwilherm Penant, Eve Gazave and Pascal Lapébie for their help in the laboratory. This work was funded by the French ANR (National Research Agency) in the Medchange program ( This was also part of the EPIC project in the European Union Network of Excellence Marine Genomics. Some samples were obtained through the GBIRM project in the European Union Network of Excellence MARBEF. J.-B.L’s PhD was funded by the Région Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur. Two anonymous reviewers helped us to improve previous versions of this article.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 984 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Aurelle
    • 1
  • J.-B. Ledoux
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Rocher
    • 1
  • P. Borsa
    • 3
  • A. Chenuil
    • 1
  • J.-P. Féral
    • 1
  1. 1.CNRS UMR 6540 DIMAR, Centre d’Océanologie de MarseilleAix-Marseille UniversitéMarseilleFrance
  2. 2.Institut de Ciències del Mar CSICBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Institut de recherche pour le développement, UR 227MontpellierFrance

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