Sardines at a junction: seascape genomics reveals ecological and oceanographic drivers of variation in the NW Mediterranean Sea

Climate Change DDRAD Outliers Population genomics SNPS


By evaluating genetic variation across the entire genome, one can address existing questions in a novel way while new can be asked. Such questions include how different local environments influence both adaptive and neutral genomic variation within and among populations, providing insights not only into local adaptation of natural populations, but also into their responses to global change and the exploitation-induced evolution. Here, under a seascape genomic approach, ddRAD genomic data were used along with environmental information to uncover the underlying processes (migration, selection) shaping European sardines (Sardina pilchardus) of the Western Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic waters. This information can be relevant to the (re)definition of fishery stocks, and their short-term adaptive potential. We found that studied sardine samples form two clusters, detected using both neutral and adaptive (outlier) loci suggesting that natural selection and local adaptation play a key role in driving genetic change among the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sardines. Temperature and especially the trend in the number of days with sea surface temperature (SST) above 19oC was crucial at all levels of population structuring with implications on species’ key biological processes, especially reproduction. Our findings provide evidence for a dynamic equilibrium where population structure is maintained by physical and biological factors under the opposing influences of migration and selection. Given its dynamic nature, such a system postulates a continuous monitoring under a seascape genomic approach that can benefit by incorporating a temporal as well as a more detailed spatial dimension.