Population genetic structure is unrelated to shell shape, thickness and organic content in European populations of the soft-shell clam Mya arenaria.
The soft-shell clam Mya arenaria is one of the most ancient invaders of European coasts and is present in many coastal ecosystems, yet little is known about its genetic structure in Europe. We collected 266 samples spanning a latitudinal cline from the Mediterranean to the North Sea and genotyped them at 12 microsatellite loci. In parallel, geometric morphometric analysis of shell outlines was used to test for associations between shell shape, latitude and genotype, and for a selection of shells we measured the thickness and organic content of the granular prismatic (PR), the crossed-lamellar (CL) and the complex crossed-lamellar (CCL) layers. Strong population structure was detected, with Bayesian cluster analysis identifying four groups located in the Mediterranean, Celtic Sea, along the continental coast of the North Sea and in Scotland. Multivariate analysis of shell shape uncovered a significant effect of collection site but no associations with any other variables. Shell thickness did not vary significantly with either latitude or genotype, although PR thickness and calcification were positively associated with latitude, while CCL thickness showed a negative association. Our study provides new insights into the population structure of this species and sheds light on factors influencing shell shape, thickness and microstructure.