María Saura Álvarez

Population Genetics and Cytogenetics Group - UNIVERSITY OF VIGO

.ACADEMIC FORMATION ....... ..... . . . . .. .RESEARCH. .. . ... . . . . . .. . PUBLICATIONS .. .. .... .... . . PHOTOS







XB2 group




1996-2001 B.Sc., Biology, University of Vigo

2002-2004 M. Sc., Genetics, University of Vigo

2004-2008 PhD, Genetics, University of Vigo

Supervisors: Armando Caballero and Paloma Morán




     Conservation Genetics

The interest of conserving different species or breeds is derived from the strong decrease in the population sizes of damaged species. The importance of conservation can be summaryzed in four features: (1) GENETIC, diversity is needed for maintaining population variability, allowing adaptation to different environments; (2) SCIENTIST, the study of each particular population is interesting in order to detect possibly unic and valuable genes in these populations; (3) HISTORIC-CULTURAL, conservation of breeds represents the genetic heritage of a country, and is in accordance to the human development ; and (4) ECOLOGIC-ENVIRONMENTAL, ecosystems are the result of an equilibrium among climate, flora and fauna,and any factor influencing them would attempt against this equilibrium, damaging the environment and the local ecologycal symbiosis.

One of the main problems affecting damaged populations is the mating among related individuals, which implies an increase of inbreeding and, therefore, an increase in the probability of extinction. Conservation is focused in maximising genetic variability and avoiding inbreeding. In our group we develop theoretical and molecular tools to investigate the conservation genetics field. I´m specifically interested in the conservation of the Atlantic salmon, a seriously damaged species inhabiting the Galician coast. A conservation program has been put in practice in order to recover salmon, and the results are being succesful.

     Divergence and speciation

Natural selection has achieved a principal attention, because of its quantitative importance and its deterministic role favouring adaptation. A clear case of strong environmental gradient comes from organisms living at intertidal rocky shores. The presence of regular tides on rocky shores imposes a simultaneous gradient from sea to inland for many environmental factors.

In the Galician rocky shores, one of the most remarkable examples of adaptive variation is known to occur in the marine snail Littorina saxatilis , where two forms (ecotypes) of this species are adapted to distinct shore levels and habitats. This polymorphism is being considered as one the best examples of incomplete ecological speciation, as experimental evidence indicates that each ecotype is adapted to each corresponding habitat and environmental characteristics.

The RB and SU ecotypes have been originated in parallel and in sympatry many times across the Galician shore line. This means that, although individuals belonging to the same ecotype (RB or SU) are phenotypically nearly identical across geographically distant Galician areas, differences among ecotypes arose by independent or partially independent fixation of genes between ecotypes.




María Saura, Montse Cabana, Carmen Ayuso and Diana Valverde (2005). Mutations including the promoter region of myocilin/TIGR gene. European Journal of Human Genetics 13: 384-387.

María Saura, Pablo Caballero, Armando Caballero and Paloma Morán (2006). Genetic variation in restored Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar L.) populations in the Ulla and Lérez rivers, Galicia , Spain . ICES Journal of Marine Science 63: 1290-1296.

María Saura, Pablo Caballero and Paloma Morán (2008). Are there Atlantic salmon in the river Tambre? Journal of Fish Biology 72: 1223-1229.

María Saura, Andrés Pérez-Figueroa, Jesús Fernández, Miguel A. Toro and Armando Caballero (2008). A method for conserving population allele frequencies in ex-situ conservation programs. Conservation Biology 22: 1277-1287.

María Saura, Armando Caballero, Pablo Caballero and Paloma Morán (2008). Impact of precocious male parr on the effective size of a wild population of Atlantic salmon. Freshwater Biology 53: 2375-2384.

Andrés Pérez-Figueroa, María Saura, Jesús Fernández, Miguel Ángel Toro and Armando Caballero (2008). METAPOP- A software for the management and analysis of subdivided populations in conservation programs. Conservation Genetics 10: 1097-1099.

María Saura, Paloma Morán, Sue Brotherstone, Armando Caballero and Beatriz Villanueva (2010). Predictions of response to selection due to angling in a wild population of Atlantic salmon. Freshwater Biology 55: 923-930.

Andrés Pérez-Figueroa, Mª Jesús García-Pereira, María Saura, Emilio Rolán-Álvarez and Armando Caballero (2010). Comparing three different methods to detect selective loci using dominant markers. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 2267-2276.

María Saura and Rui Faria (2010). Genetic tools for the restoration of fish populations. Journal of Applied Ichthyology (in press).

Vinicius Acuña, María Saura, Humberto Quesada and Emilio Rolán-Álvarez. Extensive micro-geographic shell polymorphims in a planktotrophic marine intertidal snail. Marine Ecology Progress Series (in press).



María Saura Álvarez
  Departamento de Bioquímica, Genética e Inmunología
Facultad de Biología - Campus Lagoas Marcosende
 Universidad de Vigo -  36310 Vigo, España
e-mail: - Teléfono 986 813828