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Keywords:

  • Biomphalaria glabrata;
  • dispersal;
  • microsatellites;
  • population structure;
  • selfing rate;
  • Venezuela

Abstract

Biomphalaria glabrata is the main intermediate host of Schistosoma mansoni in America and one of the most intensely studied species of freshwater snails, yet very little is known about its population biology. Here, we used seven highly polymorphic microsatellite loci to analyse genetic diversity in the Valencia lake basin, which represents the core of the endemic area for schistosomiasis in Venezuela. Populations were sampled at short spatial scale (a few kilometres), both inside the lake and in ponds or rivers near the lake. Our results indicate that B. glabrata essentially cross-fertilizes, with little variation in selfing rates among populations. Our markers detected considerable genetic variation, with an average heterozygosity of 0.60. More diversity per population was found within than outside the lake, suggesting an influence of connectivity among populations on the levels of genetic diversity. A marked population structure was detected and lake populations were less structured than other populations. Most individuals were assigned to their population of origin using an assignment test. No strong demographic signal (e.g. bottleneck) was detected, though lake populations are likely to experience bottlenecks more frequently than the other populations analysed. Differences in gene flow therefore seem to play an important role in population differentiation and in the restoring of genetic diversity in demographically unstable populations.