Habitat fragmentation has been suggested to be responsible for major genetic differentiations in a range of marine organisms. In this study, we combined genetic data and environmental information to unravel the relative role of geography and habitat heterogeneity on patterns of genetic population structure of corkwing wrasse (Symphodus melops), a rocky shore species at the northern limit of its distribution range in Scandinavia. Our results revealed a major genetic break separating populations inhabiting the western and southern coasts of Norway. This genetic break coincides with the longest stretch of sand in the whole study area, suggesting habitat fragmentation as a major driver of genetic differentiation of this obligate rocky shore benthic fish in Scandinavia. The complex fjords systems extending along the western coast of Norway appeared responsible for further regional genetic structuring. Our findings indicate that habitat discontinuities may lead to significant genetic fragmentation over short geographical distances, even for marine species with a pelagic larval phase, as for this rocky shore fish.
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