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The copepod genus Tigriopus Norman, 1869 is distributed worldwide in coastal rock pools and it is currently considered to include 14 valid species. Tigriopus fulvus (Fischer 1860), with its subspecies Tigriopus fulvus adriaticus Van Douwe 1913 and Tigriopus fulvus algiricus Monard 1935, and Tigriopus minutus Bozic 1960 are currently reported to occur in the Mediterranean area, but the actual diversity of the genus is currently unknown. We aimed to assess the actual identity of Mediterranean Tigriopus populations and to elucidate their taxonomy and pattern of genetic diversity. In order to reach these goals, a fragment of a mitochondrial DNA gene (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I, COI) was sequenced to be used as a reference marker. Our data suggest the presence of a single species characterized by a noteworthy geographically based genetic structure in the whole study area. The observed diversity pattern is tentatively ascribed here to a strong monopolization of the rock pools by the first immigrants that reached them. However, such a monopolization is periodically disrupted by local extinction events, which are frequent in the intrinsically unstable rock pool habitats. We propose the name “clockwork monopolization” for this pattern.
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