The Mediterranean Sea is considered as one of the hotspots of marine bioinvasions, largely due to the influx of tropical species migrating through the Suez Canal, so-called Lessepsian migrants. Several cases of Lessepsian migration have been documented recently, however, little is known about the ecological characteristics of the migrating species and their aptitude to colonize the new areas. This study focused on Red Sea soritids, larger symbiont-bearing benthic foraminifera (LBF) that are indicative of tropical and subtropical environments and were recently found in the Israeli coast of the Eastern Mediterranean. We combined molecular phylogenetic analyses of soritids and their algal symbionts as well as network analysis of Sorites orbiculus Forskål to compare populations from the Gulf of Elat (northern Red Sea) and from a known hotspot in Shikmona (northern Israel) that consists of a single population of S. orbiculus. Our phylogenetic analyses show that all specimens found in Shikmona are genetically identical to a population of S. orbiculus living on a similar shallow water pebbles habitat in the Gulf of Elat. Our analyses also show that the symbionts found in Shikmona and Elat soritids belong to the Symbiodinium clade F5, which is common in the Red Sea and also present in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Our study therefore provides the first genetic and ecological evidences that indicate that modern population of soritids found on the Mediterranean coast of Israel is probably Lessepsian, and is less likely the descendant of a native ancient Mediterranean species.
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