African Journal of Aquatic Science

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Larval development reflects biogeography in two formerly synonymised southern African coastal crabs

I Papadopoulos, PR Teske


The southern African crab Hymenosoma orbiculare was recently split into five distinct species, of which three are estuarine/coastal and have peripatric distributions that are linked to temperature-defined marine bioregions. This suggests that the species’ ranges may be limited by physiological adaptations to their thermal environment. We explored this hypothesis by rearing the larvae of the warm-temperate lineage of H. orbiculare and the warm-temperate/subtropical H. longicrure at a range of water temperatures, and found clear temperature-dependent differences in the duration of larval development. Our study contributes to the growing body of evidence that stresses the importance of adaptation to regional environmental conditions, rather than physical dispersal barriers on their own, in limiting the mixing of marine species between temperature-defined biogeographic regions.

Keywords: crown crab, Hymenosoma longicrure, Hymenosoma orbiculare, planktonic larval duration, range limits, temperature stress, thermal adaptation, zoea

African Journal of Aquatic Science 2014, 39(3): 347–350
AJOL African Journals Online