The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Lineage splitting, secondary contacts and genetic admixture of a widely distributed marine invertebrate

Record type: Article


We explore the genetic structure of the widespread starfish, Marthasterias spp., in order to: (1) identify historical causes of genetic divergence, (2) test the effect of past climatic events on populations’ demography and (3) explore main barriers to gene flow.


North- and south-east Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.


We amplified and sequenced three mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, and genotyped five nuclear microsatellite loci from 337 specimens. We reconstructed the phylogeny and phylogeography of Marthasterias spp. using the obtained DNA sequences, and used the microsatellite loci to explore major genetic discontinuities along the European coast.


Our results suggested the existence of two allopatric species, one in the Northern Hemisphere (M. glacialis) and another in the Southern Hemisphere (Marthasterias sp.). This allopatric split could be attributed to recent changes in oceanographic circulation of the eastern Atlantic Ocean that may have acted as barrier to gene flow. Mitochondrial divergence between European lineages could be attributed to potential vicariance during Pleistocene glacial periods, but was not supported by nuclear markers, which may be indicative of recent genetic admixture. Secondary contact after glacial periods and gene flow across the Gibraltar Strait may explain this pattern. Genetic structure of M. glacialis based on nuclear markers did not show much divergence among geographical areas although most populations were significantly differentiated.

Main conclusions

The phylogeography of the widely distributed genus Marthasterias has most likely been shaped by recent changes in climate and oceanographic patterns. Major changes of ocean current patterns initially resulted in splitting between Northern and Southern Hemisphere lineages. Subsequently, glacial periods most likely enhanced vicariance of European lineages, followed by a post-glacial expansion facilitating secondary contacts and genetic admixture.

PDF Perez-Portela-et-al-R3_complete.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 2 December 2017.
Download (5MB)


Pérez-Portela, R., Rius, M. and Villamor, A. (2017) Lineage splitting, secondary contacts and genetic admixture of a widely distributed marine invertebrate Journal of Biogeography, 44, (2), pp. 446-460. (doi:10.1111/jbi.12917).

More information

Accepted/In Press date: 2 December 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 2 December 2016
Published date: February 2017
Keywords: DNA, echinodermata, gene flow, marine barriers, microsatellites, phylogeography, sea stars, speciation
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science, Marine Biology & Ecology


Local EPrints ID: 403545
ISSN: 0305-0270
PURE UUID: 16d4b979-c7ce-450f-8061-00310f4db554

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Dec 2016 09:57
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 17:41

Export record



Author: R. Pérez-Portela
Author: M. Rius
Author: A. Villamor

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.