Role of coastal lagoons on genetic diversity: are they hotspots of biodiversity?

Coastal lagoons are considered one of the most productive areas of our planet being home of a large variety of habitats. Their transitional character, between terrestrial and marine environments, creates a very particular ecosystem with wide variations of environmental conditions. The organisms that are able to subsist in these wide variable ecosystems frequently experience strong selective pressures, what could contribute to genetic divergence among populations occurring in coastal lagoon and marine environments. The aim of this study was to detect the degree of genetic differentiation to a small geographical scale, inside Ria Formosa coastal lagoon in two different species, Holothuria arguinensis and Cerastoderma edule and between lagoonal and marine populations (H. arguinensis) using two mitochondrial DNA makers (COI and 16S). Both species, H. arguinensis and C. edule, shared a common pattern of non significant genetic structure and high haplotypic diversity inside of the Ria Formosa Coastal lagoon system. Our results supported our hypotheses that not just coastal lagoons are acting as hotspots of genetic diversity, but as well are contributing for the genetic variability of the species, work�ing as a source of new haplotypes and enhancing adaptation to the high variable conditions.

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