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Revealing the mechanisms of life cycle changes is critical for understanding the processes driving hydrozoan evolution. Our analysis of mitochondrial (COI, 16S) and nuclear (ITS1 and ITS2) gene fragments resulted in the discovery of unique polymorphism in the life cycle of Sarsia lovenii from the White Sea. This polymorphic species exhibits two types of gonophores: hydroids produce both free-swimming medusae and attached medusoids (phenotypic polymorphism). Our phylogenetic analysis revealed the intrinsic genetic structure of S. lovenii (genetic polymorphism). Two haplogroups inhabiting the White Sea differ in their reproductive modes. Haplogroup 1 produces attached medusoids, and haplogroup 2 produces free-swimming medusae. Our experiments indicated the possibility of free interbreeding between haplogroups that likely is a rare event in the sea. We propose that inter-haplogroup crossing of S. lovenii in the White Sea may be limited by discordance in periods of spawning or by spatial differences in habitat of spawning specimens. Our finding can be interpreted as a case of nascent speciation that illustrates the patterns of repeated medusa loss in hydrozoan evolution. Life cycle traits of S. lovenii may be useful for elucidating the molecular mechanisms of medusa reduction in hydrozoans.


Andrey A Prudkovsky, Irina A Ekimova, Tatiana V Neretina. A case of nascent speciation: unique polymorphism of gonophores within hydrozoan Sarsia lovenii. Scientific reports. 2019 Oct 29;9(1):15567

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PMID: 31664107

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