• Hybrid swarm;
  • introgression;
  • microsatellite;
  • minisatellite;
  • sea bass;
  • tension zones


The population genetic structure of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) along a transect from the Atlantic Ocean (AO) to the Eastern Mediterranean (EM) Sea differs from that of most other marine taxa in this area. Three populations (AO, Western Mediterranean [WM], EM) are recognized today, which were originally two allopatric populations. How two ancestral genetic units have evolved into three distinct units has not been addressed yet. Therefore, to investigate mechanisms that lead to the emergence of the central WM population, its current status, and its connectivity with the two parental populations, we applied 20 nuclear loci that were either gene associated or gene independent. Results confirmed the existence of three distinct gene pools, with higher differentiation at two transitional areas, the Almeria-Oran Front (AOF) and of the Siculo-Tunisian Strait (STS), than within any population. Significant linkage disequilibrium and heterozygote excess indicated that the STS is probably another tension zone, as already described for the AOF. Neutrality tests fail to reveal marker loci that could be driven by selection within or among metapopulations, except for locus DLA0068. Collectively, results support that the central WM population arose by trapping two tensions zones at distinct geographic locations of limited connectivity. Population assignment further revealed that WM individuals were more introgressed than individuals from the other two metapopulations. This suggests that this population might result from hybrid swarming, and was or is still seeded by genes received through the filter of each tension zone.