The presence of more than one type of mitochondrial DNA within the same organism (mtDNA heteroplasmy) has been reported in vertebrates, invertebrates, basidiomycetes and some angiosperms, but never in marine (macro)algae. We examined sequence differences in a 135-base pair (bp) region of the nad11 gene in mitochondria of the intertidal rockweed, Fucus serratus, using single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP). Each of 70 and 22 individuals from Blushøj (Denmark) and Oskarshamn (Sweden), respectively, displayed haplotypes 2, 3, and 4 (= mtDNA heteroplasmy), whereas only haplotype 2 was found in each of 24 individuals from locations in Spain, France, Ireland, Iceland and Norway. As Blushøj and Oskarshamn were among the last areas to emerge from ice cover during the Last Glacial Maximum (18 000–20 000 years bp), the geographically specific heteroplasmy may represent a founder effect and therefore, a valuable marker for understanding the role of post-Ice Age recolonization. Geographically specific heteroplasmy also has important implications in phylogeographical studies based on mtDNA sequences.
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