Population genetics of estuary and reservoir populations of Harris mud crabs, Rhithropanopeus harrisii, in Texas and Oklahoma

Abstract

Rhithropanopeus harrisii are small, estuarine crabs native to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America. They have become an invasive species, establishing populations on the west coast of the United States, Europe, Panama, and Japan. Reproducing populations are also established in freshwater reservoirs in Texas and on the Texas/Oklahoma border. In order to compare levels of genetic diversity within introduced reservoir populations with those of native estuary populations and to determine possible source populations and routes of colonization among Texas reservoir populations, we obtained mitochondrial DNA sequences from reservoirs and several estuaries along the Texas and Louisiana coast. Overall, genetic diversity within reservoirs was lower than within estuaries; however, some reservoirs exhibited relatively high levels of genetic diversity indicating that they were founded by numerous individuals or individuals from divergent source populations. In contrast, two genetically divergent reservoir populations had greatly reduced genetic diversity suggestive of extreme founder effects. All estuary and reservoir haplotypes formed a monophyletic group separate from Atlantic coast haplotypes, thus colonization of Texas reservoirs occurred from the Gulf Coast as expected based on geographic proximity. There was minimal DNA sequence divergence among Gulf Coast and reservoir haplotypes and a lack of phylogeographic structure among estuary populations. However, there was significant population divergence among some estuaries based on haplotype frequencies. Genetic differences among estuaries were subtle in most cases, preventing identification of source populations using mitochondrial DNA sequences.

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Availability of data and material

DNA sequences are available on GenBank.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank David Buzan and Sam Kieschnick for assistance collecting specimens, Tarleton State University for funding, and anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism.

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Tarleton State University.

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Correspondence to Russell S. Pfau.

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Appendix: Locality information for specimens collected as part of this study

Appendix: Locality information for specimens collected as part of this study

Reservoirs

Squaw Creek Reservoir (March through August 2011): safe shut-down impoundment adjacent to reservoir (32.2957785, − 97.7868482). Lake Whitney (March 2011): Lake Whitney State Park on Farm to Market Road 1244 in a bay on the northern boundary of the park (31.923169, − 97.3749368). Lake Texoma (June 2011): west boundary of The University of Oklahoma Biological Station on the north shore of Lake Texoma east of State Highway 377 (33.8802968, − 96.8022547). Lake Braunig (July 2011): Lake Braunig Park, 17,500 Donop Road, San Antonio, Texas (29.2543883, -98.3920036).

Estuaries

Nueces River (July 2008): bridge of Interstate Highway 37 over the Nueces River in Patricio County (27.8919027, − 97.6292523). The Nueces River flows into Nueces Bay. Mission River (July 2008): at the intersection of Farm to Market Road 2678 crossing the Mission River in Refugio County (28.1834974, − 97.2141456). The Mission River flows into Mission Bay and then into Copano Bay and then into Aransas Bay. Garcitas Creek (July 2008): bridge of Farm to Market Road 616 over Garcitas Creek on the border of Victoria and Jackson Counties (28.7776815, -96.6995914). Garcitas Creek flows into Lavaca Bay then into Matagorda Bay. Lavaca River (July 2008): bridge of Farm to Market Road 616 crossing the Lavaca River in Jackson County (28.8316365, − 96.5790748). The Lavaca River flows into Lavaca Bay and then into Matagorda Bay. Tres Palacios River (July 2008 and June 2017): bridge of Farm to Market Road 521 over the Tres Palacios River in Matagorda County (28.7861209, − 96.1511496). The Tres Palacios River flows into Tres Palacios Bay and then into Matagorda Bay.

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Huebner, T.S., Boyle, T.M. & Pfau, R.S. Population genetics of estuary and reservoir populations of Harris mud crabs, Rhithropanopeus harrisii, in Texas and Oklahoma. Biol Invasions (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02580-x

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Keywords

  • Rhithropanopeus harrisii
  • Population genetics
  • Estuaries
  • Reservoirs
  • Introduced