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The origin and dispersal pathway of the spotted sea hare Aplysia dactylomela (Mollusca: Opisthobranchia) in the Mediterranean Sea

December 12, 2013

The spotted sea hare Aplysia dactylomela Rang, 1828 is a large and conspicuous opist hobranch sea slug that since 2002 has rapidly colonized the eastern Mediterranean, establishing populations in numerous localities. The source of the Mediterranean populations has been the subject of debate, with two main hypotheses considered (Atlantic and Red Sea origin). A recent study on the taxonomy of A. dactylomela has shown that the spotted sea hare is a complex of at least two genetically distinct species ( A. dactylomela in the Atlantic and A. argusin the Indo-Pacific), facilitating the correct identification of Mediterranean specimens by molecular means. We used sequence data from the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene to identify the Mediterranean individuals for the first time and to infer their origin. Our results confirmed that all the specimens collected in the Mediterranean belong to A. dactylomela and therefore have an Atlantic origin. The limited sample size does not allow identification of the dispersal pathway of A. dactylomela into the Mediterranean, but the colonization sequence is consistent with a “natural” dispersal event. This hypothesis is evaluated in light of local surface circulation patterns. Possible causes for therecent and rapid invasion of the eastern Mediterranean by A. dactylomela are discussed

Valdés A, Alexander J, Crocetta F. Yokeş M B et al.,  in press. The origin and dispersal pathway of the spotted sea hare Aplysia dactylomela (Mollusca: Opisthobranchia) in the Mediterranean Sea, Aquatic Invasions, 8. Article.

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