Adaptation to local conditions is known to occur in seagrasses; however, knowledge of the genetic basis underlying this phenomenon remains scarce. Here, we analysed Posidonia oceanica from six sites within and around the Stagnone di Marsala, a semi-enclosed coastal lagoon where salinity and temperature exceed the generally described tolerance thresholds of the species. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were measured and plant samples were collected for the assessment of morphology, flowering rate and for screening genome-wide polymorphisms using double digest restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing. Results demonstrated more extreme SSTs and salinity levels inside the lagoon than the outer lagoon regions. Morphological results showed significantly fewer and shorter leaves and reduced rhizome growth of P. oceanica from the inner lagoon and past flowering events were recorded only for a meadow farthest away from the lagoon. Using an array of 51,329 single nucleotide polymorphisms, we revealed a clear genetic structure among the study sites and confirmed the genetic isolation and high clonality of the innermost site. In all, 14 outlier loci were identified and annotated with several proteins including those relate to plant stress response, protein transport and regulators of plant-specific developmental events. Especially, five outlier loci showed maximum allele frequency at the innermost site, likely reflecting adaptation to the extreme temperature and salinity regimes, possibly due to the selection of more resistant genotypes and the progressive restriction of gene flow. Overall, this study helps us to disentangle the genetic basis of seagrass adaptation to local environmental conditions and may support future works on assisted evolution in seagrasses.
- local adaptation
- ocean warming
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics