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Keywords:

  • 16S rRNA gene;
  • Helix aspersa;
  • North Africa;
  • phylogeography;
  • Pleistocene glaciation;
  • Pliocene tectonics events

Abstract

Intraspecific phylogeographic methods provide a means of examining the history of genetic exchange among populations. As part of a study of the history of Helixaspersa in the Western Mediterranean, we performed a phylogenetic analysis based on partial sequences of the mitochondrial large ribosomal subunit (16S) gene. Our samples include 31 H. a. aspersa populations from North Africa previously investigated for anatomical and biochemical characters. To clarify subspecific relationships, three individuals of the subspecies H. a. maxima were also studied. The molecular phylogeny inferred agrees largely with previous results, in splitting H. a. aspersa haplotypes into an eastern and a western group. H. a. maxima haplotypes form a third lineage arising before the H. a.aspersa groups. Divergence times estimated between the lineages suggest that dispersal during Pleistocene glaciation and vicariance events due to Pliocene geological changes in the western Mediterranean may both have played a significant part in the establishment of the present range of H. aspersa.