Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 543–555 | Cite as

Historical isolation and hydrodynamically constrained gene flow in declining populations of the South-African abalone, Haliotis midae

  • Aletta E. Bester-van der MerweEmail author
  • Rouvay Roodt-Wilding
  • Filip A. M. Volckaert
  • Maria E. D’Amato
Research Article


Over the past two decades, the South African abalone (Haliotis midae), has been under serious threat mainly due to overexploitation. To assure successful management and conservation of wild stocks, the consideration of species-specific evolutionary and population dynamic aspects is critical. In this study, eight microsatellites and 12 single nucleotide polymorphic loci (SNPs) were applied to determine genetic structure in nine populations sampled throughout the species’ natural distribution range. It spans along three biogeographical regions of the South African coastline: temperate in the West coast, warm temperate in the South coast and subtropical in the East coast. Data analysis applying frequentist and Bayesian-based clustering methods indicated weak genetic differentiation between populations of the West, South and East coast. Spatial Bayesian inference further revealed clinal variation along a longitudinal gradient and a transitional zone in the South coast. Coalescent analysis of long-term migration showed restricted interchange among the sampling locations of the South coast while estimates of effective population size were comparable between coastal regions. Furthermore demographic analysis of microsatellite data suggested population expansion, probably reflecting range expansion that occurred following glacial retreat during the Pleistocene. Overall, population structure analysis suggested contemporary (hydrographical conditions) as well as historical (Pleistocene contraction of habitat) restrictions to gene flow. This study provides the foundation for the establishment of an integrated management policy for preserving the natural diversity and adaptive potential of H. midae.


Conservation Dispersal Haliotis midae Hydrodynamics Microsatellites Population differentiation SNPs 



For laboratory contributions, we thank B. Swart and L. Sandenbergh. We are grateful to P. Beerli and O. François for giving advice regarding the software packages Migrate and Tess. Marine and Coastal Management of South Africa are thanked for the authorization to collect samples along the South African coast, and B. Godfrey, G. Harkins and G. Isaacs for their assistance in sample collection. This research was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation and the Innovation Fund, Department of Science and Technology of South Africa.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aletta E. Bester-van der Merwe
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Rouvay Roodt-Wilding
    • 1
  • Filip A. M. Volckaert
    • 2
  • Maria E. D’Amato
    • 3
  1. 1.Molecular Aquatic Research Group, Department of GeneticsStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Laboratory of Animal Diversity and SystematicsKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Forensic DNA Laboratory, Department of BiotechnologyUniversity of the Western CapeBelvilleSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of GeneticsStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

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