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Do the same genes underlie parallel phenotypic divergence in different Littorina saxatilis populations?

Journal article
Authors A. M. Westram
J. Galindo
Magnus Alm Rosenblad
J. W. Grahame
Marina Panova
Roger Butlin
Published in Molecular Ecology
Volume 23
Issue 18
Pages 4603-4616
ISSN 0962-1083
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory
Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 4603-4616
Language en
Keywords adaptive divergence, parallel evolution, speciation, transcriptome scan, POOLED DNA SAMPLES, MARINE SNAIL, REPRODUCTIVE ISOLATION, LAKE, WHITEFISH, ECOLOGICAL SPECIATION, NATURAL-SELECTION, GENOME SCANS, ADAPTIVE EVOLUTION, LOCAL ADAPTATION, CICHLID FISHES, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Subject categories Environmental Sciences


Parallel patterns of adaptive divergence and speciation are cited as powerful evidence for the role of selection driving these processes. However, it is often not clear whether parallel phenotypic divergence is underlain by parallel genetic changes. Here, we asked about the genetic basis of parallel divergence in the marine snail Littorina saxatilis, which has repeatedly evolved coexisting ecotypes adapted to either crab predation or wave action. We sequenced the transcriptome of snails of both ecotypes from three distant geographical locations (Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom) and mapped the reads to the L. saxatilis reference genome. We identified genomic regions potentially under divergent selection between ecotypes within each country, using an outlier approach based on FST values calculated per locus. In line with previous studies indicating that gene reuse is generally common, we expected to find extensive sharing of outlier loci due to recent shared ancestry and gene flow between at least two of the locations in our study system. Contrary to our expectations, we found that most outliers were country specific, suggesting that much of the genetic basis of divergence is not shared among locations. However, we did find that more outliers were shared than expected by chance and that differentiation of shared outliers is often generated by the same SNPs. We discuss two mechanisms potentially explaining the limited amount of sharing we observed. First, a polygenic basis of divergent traits might allow for multiple distinct molecular mechanisms generating the same phenotypic patterns. Second, additional, location-specific axes of selection that we did not focus on in this study may produce distinct patterns of genetic divergence within each site.

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