Biological Invasions

, 11:2209 | Cite as

Disjunct distribution of the Mediterranean freshwater crab Potamon fluviatile—natural expansion or human introduction?

  • Ruth JesseEmail author
  • Markus Pfenninger
  • Sara Fratini
  • Massimiliano Scalici
  • Bruno Streit
  • Christoph D. Schubart
Original Paper


Human mediated biological invasions are seen as an increasing danger for biodiversity. On the other hand, range expansions are natural processes. It is often practically not possible to tell these processes apart, like in the case of the freshwater crab Potamon fluviatile. This species has a disjunct distribution on the Balkan Peninsula, Italy, Sicily and Malta. An innovative analysis framework involving phylogeographic model selection and temporal coalescent analyses on a mitochondrial dataset (COI and NADH1) could clarify that the origin of the species was on the Balkans and the colonisation of Italy proceeded from the northern Balkans via southern Italy in the Otranto Strait region. The population expansion associated with this invasion was estimated to have taken place 15,000 years before present (95% c.f. 10,000–24,000 years BP). An anthropogenic introduction is therefore implausible and a natural expansion likely. We argue that the species should thus be included in the national conservation management in Italy.


Phylogeography Model selection Adriatic Sea Coalescent demographic analyses LGM sea level Conservation 



Akaike Information Criterion


Analysis of Molecular Variance


Before Christ


Before Present


Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I


International Union for Conservation of Nature


Nicotine Amid dehydrogenase subunit 1


Last Glacial Maximum


Monte Carlo Markov Chain

GTR + I + Γ

General Time Reversible + Proportion Invariant + Gamma


Parsimony Informative



Many thanks are due to Silvia Barbaresi and Lapo Ragionieri for their help in the field and in the lab. We also thank Gianna Innocenti, Andrea De Paoli, Alessio Bruni, Lorenzo Gori and Annamaria Nocita. Martin G.J. Huber, Silke Reuschel, Petra Zillner, Reiner Rubner and Hermanfrid Schubart are acknowledged for their assistance in the field, Stefanie Sahner, Susanne Siebeneicher and Melanie Grudinski for their help in the lab. Dirk Brandis and Klaus-Gerhard Heller provided some specimens from the Balkans. We sincerely like to thank Daniele Macale and the National Park staffs of Cilento e Vallo di Diano, Pollino, and Aspromonte for sampling permits. Peter C. Dworschak from the Natural History Museum in Vienna and Michael Türkay from the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt/Main made their museum collections available. Marco Vannini supported this research with Fondi Ateneo and a VIGONI project (University of Florence). Christoph Schubart and Ruth Jesse were supported by the DAAD-Vigoni exchange program D/04/47157. Further financial support was provided by the Hermann Willkomm-Foundation (Frankfurt/Main). We are grateful to two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on our manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Jesse
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Markus Pfenninger
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sara Fratini
    • 4
  • Massimiliano Scalici
    • 5
  • Bruno Streit
    • 1
  • Christoph D. Schubart
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Ecology, Evolution and DiversityGoethe UniversityFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Biology 1University of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  3. 3.Biodiversity and Climate Research CentreFrankfurtGermany
  4. 4.Dpto. di Biologia Animale e Genetica, “Leo Pardi”University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  5. 5.Dpto. di BiologiaUniversity “Roma Tre”RomeItaly

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