Genetic diversity of the imperilled bath sponge Spongia officinalis Linnaeus, 1759 across the Mediterranean Sea: patterns of population differentiation and implications for taxonomy and conservation
|Title||Genetic diversity of the imperilled bath sponge Spongia officinalis Linnaeus, 1759 across the Mediterranean Sea: patterns of population differentiation and implications for taxonomy and conservation|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2011|
|Authors||Dailianis, T, Tsigenopoulos CS, Dounas C, Voultsiadou E|
|Keywords||microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA, morphological variability, population structure, Porifera|
The Mediterranean bath sponge Spongia officinalis is an iconic species with high socioeconomic value and precarious future owing to unregulated harvesting, mortality incidents and lack of established knowledge regarding its ecology. This study aims to assess genetic diversity and population structure of the species at different geographical scales throughout its distribution. For this purpose, 11 locations in the Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean Sea), Western Mediterranean (Provence coast) and the Strait of Gibraltar were sampled; specimens were analysed using partial mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) sequences, along with a set of eight microsatellite loci. According to our results (i) no genetic differentiation exists among the acknowledged Mediterranean morphotypes, and hence, S. officinalis can be viewed as a single, morphologically variable species; (ii) a notable divergence was recorded in the Gibraltar region, indicating the possible existence of a cryptic species; (iii) restriction to gene flow was evidenced between the Aegean Sea and Provence giving two well-defined regional clusters, thus suggesting the existence of a phylogeographic break between the two systems; (iv) low levels of genetic structure, not correlated to geographical distance, were observed inside geographical sectors, implying mechanisms (natural or anthropogenic) that enhance dispersal and gene flow have promoted population connectivity; (v) the genetic diversity of S. officinalis is maintained high in most studied locations despite pressure from harvesting and the influence of devastating epidemics. These findings provide a basis towards the effective conservation and management of the species.