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A molecular approach to the ecology of a mussel (Mytilus edulis – M. trossulus) hybrid zone on the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada


Mytilus trossulus Gould and M. edulis L. coexist in mixed populations in Atlantic Canadian waters. Although there is evidence that the two species hybridize in natural populations and that hybrids produce progeny through backcrosses, no study of the microgeographic distribution of the two forms and their hybrids has been made. Here we examine subtidal samples of mussels taken in July 1997 from two locations in eastern Newfoundland (Canada) and from wave-exposed and protected environments within each location. Shell lengths ranged from 15 to about 90 mm. Mussels were classified as pure forms or hybrids (F1, F2 and from backcrosses) based on four diagnostic markers, two allozyme loci (Mpi and Est-D) and two nuclear PCR-based DNA markers (ITS and Glu-5). In addition, a PCR-based mtDNA marker (COIII) was used to characterize the distribution of mtDNA mitotypes among pure and hybrid individuals. There were differences in the proportions of pure M. edulis and M. trossulus between sites and between environments at one location. M. trossulus was the predominant species at one of the two exposed sites. In all four samples, M. trossulus was also the predominant form among small individuals. The frequency of hybrids was 26% overall and did not differ among samples. Hybrids consisted mostly of backcrosses that were M. trossulus-biased among small mussels and M. edulis-biased among large ones. We conclude that both intrinsic genetic factors and extrinsic environmental factors influence the relative frequency of M. edulis, M. trossulus and their hybrids.

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Received: 29 June 1998 / Accepted: 4 November 1998

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Comesaña, A., Toro, J., Innes, D. et al. A molecular approach to the ecology of a mussel (Mytilus edulis – M. trossulus) hybrid zone on the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Marine Biology 133, 213–221 (1999).

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  • East Coast
  • Diagnostic Marker
  • Mixed Population
  • Shell Length
  • Hybrid Zone