November 5, 2011

Escargots crossed the Mediterranean via Sardinia hitchhiking human ships

Snails of the Tudorella sulcata species, which lives on land, are found all around the Western Mediterranean: in France, Spain, Sardinia, Algeria and Malta. A new genetic study deals on how the snails, original from SW Europe, made it to Sardinia and Algeria.

Sampling sites (color-coded by region)

Statistical parsimony networks with based on 604 bp of the mitochondrial COI gene (a) and 219 bp of the nuclear hsp70 gene (b).

As often happens, the haploid (not recombined) mitochondrial genome is the most informative: the snails traveled to Africa mostly via Sardinia. 

The authors estimate (???) ages between 10 and 3,000 years ago, with a m.l. date of 8000 BP and claim this would have some sort of relation with Neolithic spread. However this is far from clear: on one side there is no known Sardinia-North Africa interaction before Megalithism (since c. 6-5000 years ago, dying out gradually only around 3000 years ago), which would also include Malta in the equation. On the other side, Iberia, a possible alternate origin/route has been neglected in the research.

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