High population connectivity and Pleistocene range expansion in the directdeveloping plough shell Bullia rhodostoma along the South African coast
Pleistocene climatic and oceanographic changes have influenced the distribution of marine biodiversity in southern Africa. Most evidence, however, has been derived from rocky shore or demersal taxa; data on sandy shore species are limited, despite severe threats to many sandy beach ecosystems. To test the effects of past climatic changes on sandy shore species, we sampled 140 smooth plough shell Bullia rhodostoma individuals from eight localities and generated phylogeographic data derived from the mtDNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) marker. Nuclear markers (ATPSα, ATPSβ, ANT, SRPS4, TBP, LTRS and ZMP) showed no sequence variation. Bullia rhodostoma exhibited shallow genetic differentiation (ΦST = 0.07, p < 0.05) across its range. Isolation-by-distance suggests a stepping-stone model of migration, which is expected given the species’ direct-development life-history strategy. Demographic reconstruction suggests a post-LGM (Last Glacial Maximum) range expansion, concordant with the signal of shallow genetic differentiation. Phylogeographic patterns obtained suggest that, during lower sea levels than current, B. rhodostoma could have been restricted to the South-West Coast, the central Agulhas Bioregion and probably also the East Coast. When climatic conditions changed and temperatures began to rise after the LGM, the species began a rapid westward range expansion from these refugial regions.
Keywords: cytochrome oxidase I, demographic history, Pleistocene climatic changes, population genetic structure, sandy beach ecosystems, sea level