Whole genome population structure of North Atlantic kelp confirms high-latitude glacial refugia

Trevor T. Bringloe, Antoine Fort, Masami Inaba, Ronan Sulpice, Cliodhna Ni Ghriofa, Agnes Mols-Mortensen, Karen Filbee-Dexter, Christophe Vieira, Hiroshi Kawai, Takeaki Hanyuda, Dorte Krause-Jensen, Birgit Olesen, Samuel Starko, Heroen Verbruggen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum (similar to 21,000years ago) have been hypothesized at high latitudes in the North Atlantic, suggesting marine populations persisted through cycles of glaciation and are potentially adapted to local environments. Here, whole-genome sequencing was used to test whether North Atlantic marine coastal populations of the kelp Maria esculenta survived in the area of southwestern Greenland during the Last Glacial Maximum. We present the first annotated genome for A. esculenta and call variant positions in 54 individuals from populations in Atlantic Canada, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Norway and Ireland. Differentiation across populations was reflected in similar to 1.9 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, which further revealed mixed ancestry in the Faroe Islands individuals between putative Greenlandic and European lineages. Time-calibrated organellar phylogenies suggested Greenlandic populations were established during the last interglacial period more than 100,000years ago, and that the Faroe Islands population was probably established following the Last Glacial Maximum. Patterns in population statistics, including nucleotide diversity, minor allele frequencies, heterozygosity and linkage disequilibrium decay, nonetheless suggested glaciation reduced Canadian Atlantic and Greenlandic populations to small effective sizes during the most recent glaciation. Functional differentiation was further reflected in exon read coverage, which revealed expansions unique to Greenland in 337 exons representing 162 genes, and a modest degree of exon loss (103 exons from 56 genes). Altogether, our genomic results provide strong evidence that A. escutenta populations were resilient to past climatic fluctuations related to glaciations and that high-latitude populations are potentially already adapted to local conditions as a result.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6473-6488
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number24
Early online date27 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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