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Genetic connectivity between land and sea: the case of the beachflea Orchestia montagui (Crustacea, Amphipoda, Talitridae) in the Mediterranean Sea

Laura Pavesi12, Ralph Tiedemann1, Elvira De Matthaeis2 and Valerio Ketmaier12*

Author Affiliations

1 Unit of Evolutionary Biology/Systematic Zoology, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, D–14476, Germany

2 Department of Biology and Biotechnology “Charles Darwin”, University of Rome “Sapienza”, Viale dell’ Università 32, Rome, 00185, Italy

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Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:21  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-10-21

Published: 25 April 2013



We examined patterns of genetic divergence in 26 Mediterranean populations of the semi-terrestrial beachflea Orchestia montagui using mitochondrial (cytochrome oxidase subunit I), microsatellite (eight loci) and allozymic data. The species typically forms large populations within heaps of dead seagrass leaves stranded on beaches at the waterfront. We adopted a hierarchical geographic sampling to unravel population structure in a species living at the sea-land transition and, hence, likely subjected to dramatically contrasting forces.


Mitochondrial DNA showed historical phylogeographic breaks among Adriatic, Ionian and the remaining basins (Tyrrhenian, Western and Eastern Mediterranean Sea) likely caused by the geological and climatic changes of the Pleistocene. Microsatellites (and to a lesser extent allozymes) detected a further subdivision between and within the Western Mediterranean and the Tyrrhenian Sea due to present-day processes. A pattern of isolation by distance was not detected in any of the analyzed data set.


We conclude that the population structure of O. montagui is the result of the interplay of two contrasting forces that act on the species population genetic structure. On one hand, the species semi-terrestrial life style would tend to determine the onset of local differences. On the other hand, these differences are partially counter-balanced by passive movements of migrants via rafting on heaps of dead seagrass leaves across sites by sea surface currents. Approximate Bayesian Computations support dispersal at sea as prevalent over terrestrial regionalism.

Orchestia montagui; Talitrids; Mediterranean Sea; Phylogeography; Mitochondrial DNA; Microsatellites; Allozymes; Approximate Bayesian Computation