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Pillars of Hercules: is the Atlantic-Mediterranean transition a phylogeographical break?
Patarnello, T.; Volckaert, F.A.M.J.; Castilho, R. (2007). Pillars of Hercules: is the Atlantic-Mediterranean transition a phylogeographical break? Mol. Ecol. 16(21): 4426-4444.
In: Molecular Ecology. Blackwell: Oxford. ISSN 0962-1083, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 130988 [ OMA ]


Authors  Top 
  • Patarnello, T.
  • Volckaert, F.A.M.J., more
  • Castilho, R.

    The geological history of the Mediterranean Sea, its hydrography and connection with the Atlantic Ocean have been well documented. Despite a wealth of historical and oceanographic data, the Atlantic-Mediterranean transition remains controversial at the biological level as there are discordant results regarding the biogeographical separation between the Atlantic and Mediterranean biota. The opening of the Strait of Gibraltar at the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (some 5.33 million years ago), removed the land barrier that impeded the marine biota allowing it to disperse freely into the Mediterranean Sea. However, present day genetic patterns suggest a limitation to gene flow for some marine species, preventing population admixture. In the last few years, a large number of studies have challenged the hypothesis of the Strait of Gibraltar representing a phylogeographical break. A review of more than 70 papers reveals no obvious relationship between either dispersal ability or life history, and observed patterns of partial or complete genetic isolation between Atlantic and Mediterranean populations. We re-analysed a selection of this large body of data (20 studies in total) in order to provide a homogeneous and coherent view on the generality of the phylogeographical patterns and the presence of a phylogeographical barrier. This offered the opportunity to summarize the state of the art on this matter and reach some general conclusions on the evolutionary history across the Atlantic-Mediterranean range. Geographically, some species in the transition zone showed step changes of allele frequencies associated with the Almeria-Oran Front rather than with the Strait of Gibraltar itself. A major part of the data describe evolutionary events well within the time frame of the Quaternary age as very few taxa pre-date closure of the Tethys Sea. Results point to a combined signature of vicariance, palaeoclimate fluctuation and life-history traits on the Atlantic-Mediterranean phylogeographical patterns. Principal component analysis failed to show any particular association between biological traits and genetic variables. It would argue that organismal determinism may play a far less significant role than marine biogeographers have generally believed.

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