Population genomic analyses reveal that salinity and geographic isolation drive diversification in a free-living protist.

Rengefors K, Annenkova N, Wallenius J, Svensson M, Kremp A, Ahrén D

Sci Rep 14 (1) 4986 [2024-02-29; online 2024-02-29]

Protists make up the vast diversity of eukaryotic life and play a critical role in biogeochemical cycling and in food webs. Because of their small size, cryptic life cycles, and large population sizes, our understanding of speciation in these organisms is very limited. We performed population genomic analyses on 153 strains isolated from eight populations of the recently radiated dinoflagellate genus Apocalathium, to explore the drivers and mechanisms of speciation processes. Species of this genus inhabit both freshwater and saline habitats, lakes and seas, and are found in cold temperate environments across the world. RAD sequencing analyses revealed that the populations were overall highly differentiated, but morphological similarity was not congruent with genetic similarity. While geographic isolation was to some extent coupled to genetic distance, this pattern was not consistent. Instead, we found evidence that the environment, specifically salinity, is a major factor in driving ecological speciation in Apocalathium. While saline populations were unique in loci coupled to genes involved in osmoregulation, freshwater populations appear to lack these. Our study highlights that adaptation to freshwater through loss of osmoregulatory genes may be an important speciation mechanism in free-living aquatic protists.

NGI Short read [Service]

NGI Uppsala (SNP&SEQ Technology Platform) [Service]

National Genomics Infrastructure [Service]

PubMed 38424140

DOI 10.1038/s41598-024-55362-5

Crossref 10.1038/s41598-024-55362-5

pmc: PMC10904836
pii: 10.1038/s41598-024-55362-5

Publications 9.5.0