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Genome scans detect consistent divergent selection among subtidal vs. intertidal populations of the marine angiosperm Zostera marina



    1. Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology, Department of Ecophysiology, August-Thienemann-Str. 2, 24306 Plön, Germany,
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    1. Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Plant Evolutionary Ecology, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Hüfferstrasse 1, 48149 Münster, Germany
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Thorsten B. H. Reusch, Fax: +49-251-83-24668; E-mail:


Genome scans are a powerful tool to detect natural selection in natural populations among a larger sample of marker loci. We used replicated habitat comparisons to search for consistent signals of selection among contrasting populations of the seagrass Zostera marina, a marine flowering plant with important ecological functions. We compared two different habitat types in the North Frisian Wadden Sea, either permanently submerged (subtidal) or subjected to aerial exposure (intertidal). In three independent population pairs, each consisting of one tidal creek and one tidal flat population each, we carried out a genome scan with 14 expressed sequence tag (EST)-derived microsatellites situated in 5′- or 3′-untranslated regions of putative genes, in addition to 11 anonymous genomic microsatellites. By using two approaches for outlier identification, one anonymous and two EST-derived microsatellites showed population differentiation patterns not consistent with neutrality. These microsatellites were detected in several parallel population comparisons, suggesting that they are under diverging selection. One of these loci is linked to a putative nodulin gene, which is responsible for water channelling across cellular membranes, suggesting a functional link of the observed genetic divergence with habitat characteristics.