Faria, J., Martins, G.M., Pita, A., Ribeiro, P.A., Hawkins, S.J., Presa, P. & Neto, A.I. (2017) Disentangling the genetic and morphological structure of Patella candei complex in Macaronesia (NE Atlantic).Ecology and Evolution, 7(16), 6125-6140. DOI:10.1002/ece3.3121 (IF2017 2,34; Q2 Ecology)
The uptake of natural living resources for human consumption has triggered serious changes in the balance of ecosystems. In the archipelagos of Macaronesia (NE Atlantic), limpets have been extensively exploited probably since islands were first colonized. This has led to profound consequences in the dynamics of rocky shore communities. The Patella candei complex includes various subspecies of limpets that are ascribed to a particular archipelago and has been the focus of several taxonomic surveys without much agreement. Under a conservational perspective, we apply morphometric and genetic analyses to test subspecies boundaries in P. candei and to evaluate its current population connectivity throughout Macaronesia (Azores, Madeira, and Canaries). A highly significant genetic break between archipelagos following isolation by distance was detected (F ST = 0.369, p < .001). Contrastingly, significant genetic differentiation among islands (i.e., Azores) was absent possibly indicating ongoing gene flow via larval exchange between populations. Significant shell‐shape differences among archipelagos were also detected using both distance‐based and geometric morphometric analyses. Adaptive processes associated with niche differentiation and strong barriers to gene flow among archipelagos may be the mechanisms underlying P. candei diversification in Macaronesia. Under the very probable assumption that populations of P. candeifrom each archipelago are geographically and/or ecologically isolated populations, the various subspecies within the P. candei complex may be best thought of as true species using the denomination: P. candei in Selvagens, Patella gomesii in Azores, Patella ordinaria in Madeira, and Patella crenata for Canaries. This would be in agreement with stock delimitation and units of conservation of P. candei sensu latu along Macaronesia.