, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 157-170

Speciation in western Atlantic stone crabs (genus Menippe): the role of geological processes and climatic events in the formation and distribution of species

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Abstract

Electrophoretically detectable variation in 38 proteins and color morphology were used to determine the evolutionary relationships of crabs of the genus Menippe (Xanthidae) in the southeastern USA. Both allele frequencies (=genotype) and color morphology (=phenotype) showed that one species, Menippe mercenaria, is probably a taxonomic supergroup composed of two taxa (semispecies). One taxon (the western Gulf form) is distributed from northwest Florida westward through Texas. The second (the peninsular Florida form) ranges through the Florida peninsula from northwest to east central Florida, and in North Carolina. The taxa appear to have hybridized in two discrete regions: in the Gulf of Mexico (northwest Florida) and in the Atlantic Ocean (east central Florida to South Carolina). The agreement of patterns of geographic variation in genotype and phenotype with the geological record and estimated times of divergence based on genetic distances suggests that the observed patterns are the product of the influence of Late Cenozoic changes in climate and geology. The Atlantic zone of hybridization was formed prior to the closure of the seaway across north Florida connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, and the northwest Florida zone at some time subsequent to the closure. The present distribution, and the location of zones of hybridization, between the two semispecies of M. mercenaria illustrate the importance of the interaction of historical geological and climatic events with ecological boundaries in determining the distribution and interactions of shallow water marine species.

Communicated by J. M. Lawrence, Tampa