Historical and contemporary population genetic connectivity of the European short-snouted seahorse Hippocampus hippocampus and implications for management

Authors


Author to whom correspondence should be addressed at present address: School of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland FK9 4LA, U.K. Tel.: +44 (0) 1786 467757; email: lucywoodall@compuserve.com

Abstract

This first genetic study of Hippocampus hippocampus covers the species' entire geographic range and employs two mtDNA markers (control region and cytochrome b) to establish patterns of population structuring. A total of 255 specimens from 21 locations were used to obtain 89 concatenated haplotypes. The common haplotype was present in all but one population, however, most haplotypes were unique. The haplotype network had a star-like construction, suggesting expansion from a bottleneck event. FST and AMOVA revealed population subdivision into three geographic regions (English Channel + Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea + Atlantic Ocean Iberian coast + Macaronesian Islands, and West Africa) with barriers to gene flow indentified at Cape Finisterre and the Cape Verde frontal zone. Neutrality tests and nested clade analysis suggest a complex demographic history, with both historic events and contemporary processes shaping patterns of genetic differentiation. The genetic population subdivision detected in this study indicates that H. hippocampus should be managed as three separate units. This is especially pertinent as H. hippocampus populations within the West African region are the only ones known to be specifically targeted for exploitation.

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