Contrasting signals from multiple markers illuminate population connectivity in a marine fish


Stefano Mariani, Fax: +353 1 716 1153; E-mail:


Recent advances in molecular biology and bioinformatics have helped to unveil striking and previously unrecognized patterns of geographic genetic structure in marine populations. Largely driven by the pressing needs of fisheries management and conservation, studies on marine fish populations have played a pivotal role in testing the efficiency of a range of approaches to explore connectivity and dispersal at sea. Here, we employed nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers and parasitic infestations to examine the nature and patterns of population structure in a warm-temperate coastal marine teleost across major putative biogeographic barriers in the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic Ocean. We detected deep genetic divergence between mitochondrial lineages, likely caused by dramatic climatic and geological transformations before and during the Pleistocene. Such long-diverged lineages later came into secondary contact and can now be found in sympatry. More importantly, microsatellite data revealed that these lineages, after millions of years of independent evolution, now interbreed extensively. By combining genetic and parasite data, we were able to identify at least five independent demographic units. While the different genetic and parasite-based methods produce notably contrasting signals and may complicate the reconstruction of connectivity dynamics, we show that by tailoring the correct interpretation to each of the descriptors used, it is possible to achieve a deeper understanding of the micro-evolutionary process and, consequently, resolve population structure.