Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 451–466 | Cite as

Modelled larval dispersal and measured gene flow: seascape genetics of the common cockle Cerastoderma edule in the southern Irish Sea

  • Ilaria CosciaEmail author
  • Peter E. RobinsEmail author
  • Joanne S. Porter
  • Shelagh K. Malham
  • Joseph E. Ironside
Research Article


The role of marine currents in shaping population connectivity in the common cockle Cerastoderma edule was investigated in the southern Irish Sea. C. edule is one of the most valuable and exploited shellfish species in the area, yet very little is known about its population dynamics. In the present study, coupled hydrodynamic and particle tracking models are used in conjunction with genetic data collected at twelve microsatellite loci to estimate the influence of the Celtic Sea front on larval transport between the coasts of Britain and Ireland. Genetic analysis highlights the presence of at least three genetic clusters partitioned within locations, suggesting a contact zone between separate subpopulations. Samples collected from the Irish coast are most similar to each other. On the British coast, the Burry Inlet appears genetically isolated while samples collected from the coast of Pembrokeshire show evidence of connectivity between Britain and Ireland. These results agree with the model’s predictions: away from the coastal zone, residual baroclinic currents develop along tidal mixing fronts and act as conduit systems, transporting larvae great distances. Larvae spawned in south Wales are capable of travelling west towards Ireland due to the Celtic Sea front residual current, confirming the action of the Celtic Sea front on larval transport. Sheltered, flood-dominant estuaries such as the Burry Inlet promote self-recruitment. The validation of the model using genetic data represents progress towards a sustainable future for the common cockle, and paves the way for a more effective approach to management of all Irish Sea shellfisheries.


Particle tracking model Larval dispersal Common cockle Cerastoderma edule Celtic sea front Burry inlet 



SUSFISH is a 3 year project funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Ireland Wales Programme 2007–2013—Interreg 4A, Project No. 042. The authors would like to thank Matt Longshaw (CEFAS, UK) and Emer Morgan (UCC, Ireland) for sharing samples and John Hickeys (BIM, Ireland) for assisting with sampling in Ireland.

Supplementary material

10592_2012_404_MOESM1_ESM.docx (102 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 102 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IBERSAberystwyth UniversityAberystwythUK
  2. 2.School of Ocean SciencesBangor UniversityAngleseyUK
  3. 3.Centre of Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, School of Life SciencesHeriot Watt UniversityEdinburghUK

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