Population genetics of the invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in Europe reveal source-sink dynamics and secondary dispersal to the Mediterranean Sea

Sören Bolte, Veronica Fuentes, Holger Haslob, Bastian Huwer, Delphine Thibault-Botha, Dror Angel, Bella Galil, Jamileh Javidpour, Anthony G. Moss, Thorsten B.H. Reusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Repeated invasions of European waters by the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi offer a unique opportunity to study population dynamics and dispersal in gelatinous zooplankton. Here we followed population establishment in 2 recently invaded areas, the North and Baltic Seas, and analysed changes in population structure during a 3 yr interval using 7 highly polymorphic microsatellites comprising 191 alleles. A second goal was to reconstruct routes of recent invasive range expansion into the Mediterranean Sea. During the study period (2008 to 2010), populations in the North Sea and Western Baltic Sea maintained their allelic composition with virtually unchanged levels of genetic diversity and between-population differentiation, demonstrating limited gene flow between the 2 regions and successful reproduction in both areas. In contrast, at the eastern distribution limit in the central Baltic (Bornholm Basin), the same measures fluctuated between years and genetic diversity decreased from 2008 to 2010. In concordance with prior ecological observations, this supports the view that M. leidyi in the central Baltic is a sink population. In the area of recent range expansion (Mediterranean Sea), we observed high population differentiation: pairwise differentiation (FST ) values between sites in Spain, France and Israel were significant and between 0.04 and 0.16. Despite this differentiation, Bayesian clustering and phylogeographic analysis support the hypothesis that all Mediterranean M. leidyi result from a secondary introduction originating from the Black Sea. Our study contributes to growing evidence that multiple invasions of the same species can vary in their degree of genetic diversity and demonstrates how genetic markers can help to resolve whether gelatinous plankton species form self-sustaining populations

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Ecology - Progress Series
StatePublished - 27 Jun 2013


  • Allelic richness
  • Baltic Sea
  • Invasive species
  • Jellyfish
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Microsatellites
  • Source populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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