Phylogeography of the Atlanto-Mediterranean sea cucumber Holothuria (Holothuria) mammata: the combined effects of historical processes and current oceanographical pattern.
We assessed the genetic structure of populations of the widely distributed sea cucumber Holothuria (Holothuria) mammata Grube, 1840, and investigated the effects of marine barriers to gene flow and historical processes. Several potential genetic breaks were considered, which would separate the Atlantic and Mediterranean basins, the isolated Macaronesian Islands from the other locations analysed, and the Western Mediterranean and Aegean Sea (Eastern Mediterranean). We analysed mitochondrial 16S and COI gene sequences from 177 individuals from four Atlantic locations and four Mediterranean locations. Haplotype diversity was high (H=0.9307 for 16S and 0.9203 for COI), and the haplotypes were closely related (π=0.0058 for 16S and 0.0071 for COI). The lowest genetic diversities were found in the Aegean Sea population. Our results showed that the COI gene was more variable and more useful for the detection of population structure than the 16S gene. The distribution of mtDNA haplotypes, the pairwise F(ST) values and the results of exact tests and amova revealed: (i) a significant genetic break between the population in the Aegean Sea and those in the other locations, as supported by both mitochondrial genes, and (ii) weak differentiation of the Canary and Azores Islands from the other populations; however, the populations from the Macaronesian Islands, Algarve and West Mediterranean could be considered to be a panmictic metapopulation. Isolation by distance was not identified in H. (H.) mammata. Historical events behind the observed findings, together with the current oceanographic patterns, were proposed and discussed as the main factors that determine the population structure and genetic signature of H. (H.) mammata.