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The evolution of land animals has been shaped by barriers such as oceans and mountains which have divided them and sent them down different genetic paths.
Scientists have generally seen sea life as more "connected", with currents mixing species in a constant genetic melting pot.
Researchers - University - Exeter - Truth - Species
But researchers at the University of Exeter have discovered the truth may be more complex, and some species could be just as disconnected as those divided by mountains or motorways.
They studied two species of soft coral, and in one - the pink sea fan - they found distinct genetic differences between those living in different places.
Marine - Life - Sense - Larvae - Organism
"Marine life is often seen as totally connected, in the sense that the larvae of any organism can move anywhere," said Dr Jamie Stevens, of the University of Exeter.
"But among pink sea fans we have found genetic differences between those living off north-west Ireland, those off southern Portugal and those off south-west Britain and north-west France.
Populations - Pink - Sea - Fans - Way
"These populations of pink sea fans are on the way to becoming different species from one another.
"We don't yet fully understand the causes of this genetic division.
Currents - Barrier - Motorway - Populations - Hedgehogs
"Currents are one possible barrier - and one which could be just as real and impenetrable as a motorway would be in dividing two populations of hedgehogs."
The researchers also found that populations of pink sea fans around south-west Britain are...
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