Population genomics and transcriptomics of Sabellaria alveolata: local adaptation and acclimatisation in a changing climate

The honeycomb worm, Sabellaria alveolata, is an ecosystem engineer responsible for the construction of some of the most extensive biogenic reefs in the temperate coast of Europe. Assessing the potential impacts of environmental change on the honeycomb worm is of high importance in understanding and conserving littoral biodiversity. Furthermore, the latitudinal range of this species, occurring from Scotland to Morocco, makes it an ideal study system for examining the effect of climate on different populations.

The aim of this project is to assess local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity of S. alveolata in relation to local environmental parameters in order to make predictions about evolutionary and acclimatisation potential in a changing climate. Specifically, we will ask the following questions: 1) Does the honeycomb worm show neutral and/or adaptive population structuring and how does this relate to environment?; 2) Do individuals from different latitudes show differential gene expression when exposed to novel temperatures?; and 3) Is there a fitness trade-off between local adaptation and acclimatisation to temperature? To answer these questions we will utilise genomics (RADseq), transcriptomics (RNAseq and qPCR) and morphological measurements (common garden experiments).

This work is funded by LabexMer  (http://www.labexmer.eu/en) and is being carried out with Dr Flavia Nunes (LabexMer) and Dr Stanislas Dubois (Ifremer).

You can find out more about this project from this poster, which was recently presented at Popgroup47, Bath, UK.