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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Unusual conservation of mitochondrial gene order in Crassostrea oysters: evidence for recent speciation in Asia

Jianfeng Ren14, Xiao Liu1, Feng Jiang25, Ximing Guo3* and Bin Liu12*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Experimental Marine Biology, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao 266071, China

2 Center of Systematic Genomics, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China

3 Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, NJ 08349, USA

4 Current Address: Institute of Genetics and Development Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

5 Current Address: Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:394  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-394

Published: 28 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Oysters are morphologically plastic and hence difficult subjects for taxonomic and evolutionary studies. It is long been suspected, based on the extraordinary species diversity observed, that Asia Pacific is the epicenter of oyster speciation. To understand the species diversity and its evolutionary history, we collected five Crassostrea species from Asia and sequenced their complete mitochondrial (mt) genomes in addition to two newly released Asian oysters (C. iredalei and Saccostrea mordax) for a comprehensive analysis.

Results

The six Asian Crassostrea mt genomes ranged from 18,226 to 22,446 bp in size, and all coded for 39 genes (12 proteins, 2 rRNAs and 25 tRNAs) on the same strand. Their genomes contained a split of the rrnL gene and duplication of trnM, trnK and trnQ genes. They shared the same gene order that differed from an Atlantic sister species by as many as nine tRNA changes (6 transpositions and 3 duplications) and even differed significantly from S. mordax in protein-coding genes. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that the six Asian Crassostrea species emerged between 3 and 43 Myr ago, while the Atlantic species evolved 83 Myr ago.

Conclusions

The complete conservation of gene order in the six Asian Crassostrea species over 43 Myr is highly unusual given the remarkable rate of rearrangements in their sister species and other bivalves. It provides strong evidence for the recent speciation of the six Crassostrea species in Asia. It further indicates that changes in mt gene order may not be strictly a function of time but subject to other constraints that are presently not well understood.