Transcriptome-wide polymorphisms of red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) reveal patterns of gene flow and local adaptation


Correspondence: Pierre De Wit, Fax: +(831) 375 0793; E-mail:


Global climate change is projected to accelerate during the next century, altering oceanic patterns in temperature, pH and oxygen concentrations. Documenting patterns of genetic adaptation to these variables in locations that currently experience geographic variation in them is an important tool in understanding the potential for natural selection to allow populations to adapt as climate change proceeds. We sequenced the mantle transcriptome of 39 red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) individuals from three regions (Monterey Bay, Sonoma, north of Cape Mendocino) distinct in temperature, aragonite saturation, exposure to hypoxia and disease pressure along the California coast. Among 1.17 × 106 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in this study (1.37% of the transcriptome), 21 579 could be genotyped for all individuals. A principal components analysis concluded that the vast majority of SNPs show no population structure from Monterey, California to the Oregon border, in corroboration with several previous studies. In contrast, an FST outlier analysis indicated 691 SNPs as exhibiting significantly higher than expected differentiation (experiment-wide P < 0.05). From these, it was possible to identify 163 genes through BLAST annotation, 34 of which contained more than one outlier SNP. A large number of these genes are involved in biomineralization, energy metabolism, heat-, disease- or hypoxia-tolerance. These genes are candidate loci for spatial adaptation to geographic variation that is likely to increase in the future.