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Population genetics of Cerastoderma edule in Ria Formosa (southern Portugal): the challenge of understanding an intraspecific hotspot of genetic diversity

  • Carlos Vergara-Chen (a1), Fernanda Rodrigues (a2) and Mercedes González-Wangüemert (a3)


Coastal lagoons are highly variable environments that may act as hotspots of genetic diversity as a consequence of their ecological role as nursery habitats of marine species with both ecological and fisheries importance. The edible cockle (Cerastoderma edule) is a commercially important shellfish resource inhabiting coastal lagoons in Europe and their fisheries management urgently needs genetic studies to design appropriate strategies to promote the recovery of exploited populations. The aim of this study was to assess the C. edule genetic diversity and population structure at a small geographic scale, inside Ria Formosa coastal lagoon (southern Portugal) using mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I sequences in six locations. Outcomes pointed to a common pattern of high haplotype diversity and non-significant genetic structuring inside the Ria Formosa lagoon. A high level of gene flow was detected between all localities and the presence of a single stock from a genetic point of view may be considered for fisheries management purposes. The existence of a high number of haplotypes and high values of haplotype diversity of C. edule in Ria Formosa lagoon could be consistent with the hypothesis that higher genetic diversity is expected in populations occurring in coastal lagoons, suggesting that lagoons could increase standing genetic variation and an adaptive potential of lagoon populations as an ecological response to a highly variable environment.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: C. Vergara-Chen, Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología (INDICASAT-AIP), Apartado 0843-01103 Panamá, Panamá email:


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