Projects

João Faria de Oliveira Santos
Genetic variation, connectivity and resilience of limpet populations from the Macaronesia islands (NE-Atlantic)
Institution Center: CIRN - Centro de Investigação de Recursos Naturais
E-Mail: jfaria@uac.pt
State: ongoing
Objectives:

“This PhD proposal aims at addressing the genetic variation, connectivity, and resilience of limpet populations in Macaronesia, in particular in Azores. Only species that inhabit more than one archipelago will be included: P. candei, P. aspera and P. rustica. The main objective of the proposed project is to examine the degree to which populations of exploited patellid species are connected in a dispersive system such as the Macaronesia islands. Genetic studies, alongside with biological, ecological and oceanographic information, will make an important contribution for the understanding of population dynamics by allowing testing hypothesis about larval dispersal patterns, recruitment and life history traits, population connectivity, genetic diversity, and population equilibrium. This PhD proposal is divided in several tasks that will focus on: i) development of species-specific microsatellite markers for P. candei and P. aspera; ii) using these markers and others described for P. rustica ([34]) to address the phylogeny and population structure of Macaronesian limpets; iii) evaluate the recruitment of limpet larvae, its abundance, seasonality, distribution and habitat preferences; iv) apply state of the art biophysical models to get insights into patterns of larvae transport and connectivity in populations of limpets in Macaronesia; v) ascertain relationships between population variability and limpet harvesting at local and regional scales and; vi) propose, if needed, measures for conservation and sustainable exploitation of limpets in Macaronesia, and Azores in particular.

Overall, this project will thus address several key questions:

  • To what extent can microsatellites be used for phylogeny construction of Macaronesian limpets?
  • Are island populations connected via larval dispersal? And if so, to what extent?
  • Are there specific spatial scales at which genetic flow between populations is restricted?
  • How suitable are biophysical models to predict larval dispersal patterns in limpets?
  • Can genetic data and dispersal models provide complementary new insights into the connectivity of limpets in Macaronesia?
  • Are there areas of higher genetic diversity that require prioritizing and special protection?
  • What is the impact of human exploitation on the genetic structure of Macaronesian populations of limpets?”