Species Composition and Genetic Connectivity of Deep Fjord Bivalves

Greg Howard
6th July, 2024

Species Composition and Genetic Connectivity of Deep Fjord Bivalves

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study focused on thyasirid bivalves in fjord basins in Northern Norway
  • Fjord basins' semi-isolated nature affects the population connectivity of thyasirid bivalves
  • Genetic analyses showed distinct clusters of populations within different fjord basins, indicating limited gene flow
Thyasirid bivalves are often recorded as a dominant component of macrobenthic infaunal communities in depositional environments such as fjord basins. Fjord basins comprise patchy soft-bottom habitats bounded by steep walls and sills; however, little is known how this semi-isolated nature of fjords affects benthic populations. Accordingly, data on the composition and population connectivity of thyasirids can provide valuable information on the ecology of these ecosystems[1]. Thyasirid bivalves are a family of clams known for their diverse anatomical structures and varying degrees of symbiotic relationships with bacteria. Some species rely heavily on these symbionts for nutrition, while others do not. This diversity makes them an interesting subject for studying the evolution of symbiosis in marine organisms[2]. Additionally, their presence and diversity in benthic environments, such as fjord basins, can serve as indicators of environmental conditions, including organic enrichment[3]. The study from Memorial University aimed to explore how the semi-isolated nature of fjord basins affects the composition and population connectivity of thyasirid bivalves. Fjords are unique environments with steep walls and sills that create patchy habitats, potentially influencing the distribution and genetic flow of benthic species. Understanding these dynamics can provide insights into the ecology and evolution of these ecosystems. To investigate this, researchers collected benthic samples from various fjord basins and identified the thyasirid species present. They then analyzed the genetic connectivity between populations using both mitochondrial genes and genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This approach allowed them to detect subtle genetic differences and potential barriers to gene flow within and between fjord basins. The findings revealed that the semi-isolated nature of fjord basins does indeed affect the population connectivity of thyasirid bivalves. Genetic analyses showed distinct clusters of populations within different fjord basins, suggesting limited gene flow between them. This pattern is consistent with the concept of isolation by adaptation (IBA), where local genetic adaptation reduces gene flow among habitats with different ecological characteristics[4]. Interestingly, the study also found evidence of cryptic semi-isolated lineages within the thyasirid populations, similar to findings in other deep-sea bivalves like Bathymodiolus platifrons[5]. This indicates that even within relatively small geographic areas like fjord basins, there can be significant genetic differentiation driven by local adaptation and environmental barriers. The results of this study have important implications for understanding the ecology of fjord basins and the evolution of benthic species in these unique environments. By highlighting the role of local adaptation and limited gene flow in shaping population structure, the research provides valuable insights into the factors driving biodiversity and ecosystem function in fjord basins. Incorporating earlier findings, the study builds on the understanding of thyasirid bivalves as indicators of environmental conditions[3]. The presence of distinct genetic clusters within fjord basins suggests that these environments may support diverse thyasirid populations, which could be used to monitor changes in environmental conditions over time. Overall, this research from Memorial University enhances our understanding of the complex interactions between habitat structure, genetic connectivity, and local adaptation in fjord basins. By shedding light on the factors influencing thyasirid populations, the study contributes to broader efforts to conserve and manage these unique and ecologically important environments.

GeneticsAnimal ScienceMarine Biology


Main Study

1) Thyasirid species composition (Bivalvia: Thyasiridae) and genetic connectivity of Parathyasira equalis (A. E. Verrill & K. J. Bush, 1898) in deep basins of sub-Arctic fjords

Published 4th July, 2024


Related Studies

2) Gill anatomy and the evolution of symbiosis in the bivalve family Thyasiridae.

Journal: The Biological bulletin, Issue: Vol 208, Issue 3, Jun 2005

3) Ecology of twelve species of Thyasiridae (Mollusca: Bivalvia).


4) Drivers of population genetic differentiation in the wild: isolation by dispersal limitation, isolation by adaptation and isolation by colonization.


5) Population genetic structure of the deep-sea mussel Bathymodiolus platifrons (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) in the Northwest Pacific.


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