Genetic variability in Irish populations of the invasive zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha: discordant estimates of population differentiation from allozymes and microsatellites


Elizabeth Gosling, Molecular Ecology Research Group, Department of Life Sciences, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Galway, Ireland. E-mail:


1. The recent arrival and explosive spread of the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas), in Ireland provided a rare opportunity to study the population genetics of an invasive species.

2. Eight polymorphic allozyme loci (ACO-1, ACO-2, EST-D, GPI, IDH-2, MDH, OPDH and PGM) were used to investigate genetic diversity and population structure in five Irish populations, and the results were compared with those from a previous microsatellite study on the same samples.

3. The mean number of alleles per locus (2.7 ± 0.1) was similar to the mean for the same loci in European populations, suggesting that Irish founder populations were large and/or multiple colonization events took place after foundation. A deficiency of heterozygotes was observed in all populations, but was uneven across loci.

4. Pairwise comparisons, using Fisher’s exact tests and FST values, revealed significant genetic differentiation among populations. The overall multilocus FST estimate was 0.118 ± 0.045, which contrasted with an estimate of 0.015 ± 0.007 from five microsatellite loci on the same samples in a previous study.

5. Assuming that microsatellites can be used as a neutral baseline, the discordant results from allozymes and microsatellites suggest that selection may be acting on some allozyme loci, specifically ACO-1, ACO-2, IDH-2 and MDH, which contributed most to the significant differentiation between samples.