Genetic structure of the deep populations of the gorgonian Paramuricea clavata located at the mouth of the submarine canyons of the Catalan coast

Progetto del Master della biologa Elena Cerro Gálvez
Università di Barcellona (Spagna)


Paramuricea clavata (Cnidaria, Octocorallia), also known as red gorgonian, is a crucial species dwelling in the coralligenous assemblages of the Mediterranean Sea. This gorgonian is characterized for being a long-lived species, with slow growing and a low dispersal capacity, which translates into a high ecological value and a strong fragility. This study aims to assess genetic diversity and population structure, by genotyping with 9 nuclear microsatellite loci of the deep populations found at the head of the submarine canyons of Blanes and Palamós (Costa Brava, Spain), between 50 and 70 m deep. Data obtained were compared with shallower populations analysed in the same study and also with other populations from previous publications. A total of 168 individuals were genotyped and it was described: (i) the genetic structure of nearby patches, (ii) the levels of gene flow among sampling sites, (iii) the genetic diversity of populations, and (iv) potential demographic events such as bottlenecks in the species. Results obtained from molecular markers were coherent with the limited dispersal capacity of the larva of this species. The highly structured populations of P. clavata due to its limited effective dispersal have large implications for the conservation of the species. Thus, the methodological basis for the conservation of these populations should be defined depending on these findings.

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