High genetic diversity and connectivity in the polyploid invasive seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis (Bonnemaisoniales) in the Mediterranean, explored with microsatellite alleles and multilocus genotypes


Nikos Andreakis, Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB no. 3, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia. Fax: +61-7-47725852; E-mail: n.andreakis@aims.gov.au


The red alga, Asparagopsis taxiformis, has recently expanded its distribution range into the Western Mediterranean Sea, and populations have now even been found on the Portuguese South coast. All Western Mediterranean populations belong to a single mitochondrial cryptic lineage (referred to as lineage 2 in earlier studies) and probably result from a recent invasion of Indo-Pacific origin. Here we investigate fine-scale population genetic diversity and structure within and among Mediterranean populations of lineage 2 using eight microsatellite loci and compare the obtained patterns with those observed in a Californian population of the same lineage. To generate an appropriate analytical method suitable to the polyploid status of this species, we score microsatellite loci as in a dominant marker system. Thereafter, we produce robust descriptors inferred from frequencies of both microsatellite alleles and multilocus genotypes. Populations from California and the Mediterranean Sea differ considerably in their levels of genetic diversity. In the Mediterranean, populations reproduce predominantly sexually and exhibit high levels of genotypic variation, suggestive either of multiple introductions or of a single introduction by a genetically diverse and large group of individuals. Bayesian clustering revealed one or possibly two weakly supported panmictic subpopulations, indicative of extensive admixture. The expansion of this lineage is rapid, possibly due to the absence of eco–physiological barriers to gene flow throughout its invasive trajectory.