Genetic variation in the acorn barnacle from allozymes to population genomics

Integr Comp Biol. 2012 Sep;52(3):418-29. doi: 10.1093/icb/ics099. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Understanding the patterns of genetic variation within and among populations is a central problem in population and evolutionary genetics. We examine this question in the acorn barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides, in which the allozyme loci Mpi and Gpi have been implicated in balancing selection due to varying selective pressures at different spatial scales. We review the patterns of genetic variation at the Mpi locus, compare this to levels of population differentiation at mtDNA and microsatellites, and place these data in the context of genome-wide variation from high-throughput sequencing of population samples spanning the North Atlantic. Despite considerable geographic variation in the patterns of selection at the Mpi allozyme, this locus shows rather low levels of population differentiation at ecological and trans-oceanic scales (F(ST) ~ 5%). Pooled population sequencing was performed on samples from Rhode Island (RI), Maine (ME), and Southwold, England (UK). Analysis of more than 650 million reads identified approximately 335,000 high-quality SNPs in 19 million base pairs of the S. balanoides genome. Much variation is shared across the Atlantic, but there are significant examples of strong population differentiation among samples from RI, ME, and UK. An F(ST) outlier screen of more than 22,000 contigs provided a genome-wide context for interpretation of earlier studies on allozymes, mtDNA, and microsatellites. F(ST) values for allozymes, mtDNA and microsatellites are close to the genome-wide average for random SNPs, with the exception of the trans-Atlantic F(ST) for mtDNA. The majority of F(ST) outliers were unique between individual pairs of populations, but some genes show shared patterns of excess differentiation. These data indicate that gene flow is high, that selection is strong on a subset of genes, and that a variety of genes are experiencing diversifying selection at large spatial scales. This survey of polymorphism in S. balanoides provides a number of genomic tools that promise to make this a powerful model for ecological genomics of the rocky intertidal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Flow
  • Gene Frequency
  • Gene Library
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population / methods
  • Genomics / methods
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Species Specificity
  • Thoracica / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Isoenzymes