1. The great scallop (Pecten maximus) is a commercially important bivalve in Europe, particularly in the English Channel, where fisheries are managed at regional and local scales through the regulation of fishing effort. In the long term, knowledge about larval dispersal and gene flow between populations is essential to ensure proper stock management. Yet, previous population genetic studies have reported contradictory results.
2. In this study, scallop samples collected across the main fishing grounds along the French and English coasts of the English Channel (20 samples with temporal replicates for three sites, n = 1059 individuals), and the population genetic structure was analysed using 13 microsatellite loci. Coupling empirical genetic data with demogenetic modelling based on a biophysical model simulating larval exchanges among scallop beds revealed a subtle genetic differentiation between south-west English populations and the rest of the English Channel, which was consistent with larval dispersal simulations.
3. The present study provides a step forward in the understanding of great scallop population biology in the English Channel, underlining the fact that even in a context of potentially high gene flow and recent divergence times since the end of the last glacial maximum, weak but significant spatial genetic structure can be identified at a regional scale.