A comparison of genetic structure in two low-dispersal crabs from the Wild Coast, South Africa
The Wild Coast in south-eastern South Africa is strongly influenced by the warm, southward-flowing Agulhas Current. This current has a significant impact on dispersal in the coastal biota of the region, and facilitates high levels of connectivity among populations. However, it is not known how the region’s high-velocity hydrology affects genetic population structure in endemic estuarine species, populations of which are frequently isolated from the sea. Here, we compared genetic structure in two estuarine crabs of the family Hymenosomatidae. Both are presumed to have low dispersal potential, but they differ in terms of their life histories. Hymenosoma longicrure has abbreviated larval development and can complete its entire life cycle within estuaries, whereas Neorhynchoplax bovis is a direct developer that lacks planktonic larvae. Using DNA sequence data from the mitochondrial COI gene and the intron of the nuclear ANT gene, we found that levels of genetic structure differ considerably between the species. Depending on the genetic marker used, H. longicrure is genetically homogeneous (COI) or displays low levels of genetic structure and minor evidence of recruitment near natal sites (ANT). In contrast, connectivity in N. bovis is much lower, as this species has a unique combination of alleles at each site, indicating that recruitment is mostly local. These results support previous findings suggesting that even a short larval dispersal phase is sufficient to maintain high levels of connectivity and prevent genetic divergence among populations.
Keywords: Agulhas Current, direct development, Hymenosoma longicrure, Neorhynchoplax bovis, phylogeography, planktonic larval dispersal, rafting