[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genetic relationships between morphologically indistinguishable marine and brackish populations of Syllis gracilis Grube, 1840 (Polychaeta: Syllidae) were studied by means of allozyme electrophoresis. Samples of S. gracilis from marine coastal and brackish-water habitats were examined for variation at 13 presumptive loci. In addition, a sample
of the closely related species S. prolifera (Krohn, 1852) was analysed. Five loci were multiallelic in at least one population of S. gracilis and eight loci in S. prolifera. Low to moderate levels of within-population genetic variability were found, with average expected heterozygosity values
ranging from H = 0.068 (±0.043 SE) to 0.187 (±0.069 SE) in the populations of S. gracilis; higher values were found in S. prolifera (H = 0.325 ± 0.076). The presence of various private alleles indicated a marked genetic divergence among populations of S. gracilis, with Nei's genetic distances ranging from D = 0.000 to 0.833 and a highly significant F
ST value. Furthermore, evidence for strong genetic heterogeneity between two sympatric marine populations was found. UPGMA cluster
analysis and multidimensional scaling pointed out a clear genetic divergence between brackish and marine populations. At least
two genetically divergent entities occurred in marine and brackish habitats. This could be due to local adaptation of individuals
coming from marine populations to brackish habitats, but more presumably to the occurrence of a species complex within S. gracilis.