Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 9, pp 1857–1868 | Cite as

Colonization of the northwest Atlantic by the blue mussel, Mytilus trossulus postdates the last glacial maximum

  • Paul D. RawsonEmail author
  • Fiona M. Harper
Original Paper


Blue mussels in the genus Mytilus first arrived in the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific during the Pliocene, following the opening of the Bering Strait. Repeated periods of glaciation throughout the Pleistocene led to re-isolation of the two ocean basins and the allopatric divergence of Mytilus edulis in the Atlantic and M. trossulus in the Pacific. Mytilus trossulus has subsequently colonized the northwest Atlantic (NW Atlantic) so that the two species are presently sympatric and hybridize throughout much of the Canadian Maritimes and the Gulf of Maine. To estimate when M. trossulus arrived in the NW Atlantic, we have examined sequence variation within a portion of the female mtDNA lineage large untranslated region (F-LUR) for 156 mussels sampled from three Pacific and eleven Atlantic populations of M. trossulus. Although we found no evidence of reciprocal monophyly for Pacific and NW Atlantic M. trossulus, limited gene flow between ocean basins has led to the divergence of unique sequence clades within each ocean basin. In contrast, relative genetic homogeneity indicates high levels of gene flow within each basin. Coalescence-based analysis of the F-LUR sequences suggests that M. trossulus recolonized the NW Atlantic from the northeast Pacific subsequent to a demographic expansion in the Pacific that occurred ~96,000 years before present (ybp). Estimates of timing of divergence for Pacific and NW Atlantic populations and the time since expansion among NW Atlantic sequence clades indicate that M. trossulus arrived in the NW Atlantic more recently, between 20,000 and 46,000 ybp. Given that these estimates overlap with the dates of peak ice in the NW Atlantic during the last glacial maximum (LGM, ~18,000–21,000 ybp), we suggest that colonization of the NW Atlantic by M. trossulus occurred during, but more likely just subsequent to, the LGM and was followed by rapid temporal and spatial expansion in the region.


Molecular Clock Hybrid Zone Blue Mussel Demographic Expansion Macoma Balthica 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank R. Tremblay, B. Konar, D. Heath, A. Mallet, D. Innes, M. Miranda, and C. Langdon for providing samples of blue mussels or blue mussel DNA from populations we could not visit ourselves. A. McGowen provided technical support on this project and C. Riginos provided constructive comments on several earlier drafts. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation (DEB0315891) and the Maine Sea Grant College (R/FMD-279).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyRollins CollegeWinter ParkUSA

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