Phylogeography of an island endemic: the Puerto Rican freshwater crab, Epilobocera sinuatifrons

TitlePhylogeography of an island endemic: the Puerto Rican freshwater crab, Epilobocera sinuatifrons
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsCook, BD, Pringle, CM, Freeman, BJ
JournalJournal of Heredity
Accession NumberLUQ.1057

The endemic Puerto Rican crab, Epilobocera sinuatifrons (Pseudothelphusidae), has a freshwater-dependant life-history strategy, although the species has some capabilities for terrestrial movement as adults. In contrast to all other freshwater decapods on the island (e.g., caridean shrimp), E. sinuatifrons does not undertake amphidromous migration, and is restricted to purely freshwater habitats and adjacent riparian zones. As Puerto Rico has a dynamic geologic history, we predicted that both the life history of E. sinuatifrons and the geological history of the island would be important determinants of phylogeographic structuring in the species. Using a fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) gene, we tested for deviations from panmixia among and within rivers draining Puerto Rico and used statistical phylogeography to explore processes that may explain extant patterns of genetic variation in the species. While populations of E. sinuatifrons were significantly differentiated among rivers, they were likely to be recently derived because nested clade analysis (NCA) indicated evolutionarily recent restricted gene flow with isolation by distance (IBD) and contiguous range expansion at various spatial scales. Ongoing drainage rearrangements associated with faulting and land slippage were invoked as processes involved in sporadic gene flow among rivers throughout the Pleistocene. Patterns of genetic differentiation conformed to IBD and population demographic statistics were nonsignificant, indicating that although recently derived, populations from different rivers were in drift-mutation equilibrium. A shallow (0.6 million years ago), paraphyletic split was observed in the haplotype network, which NCA indicated arose via allopatric fragmentation. This split coincides with an area of high relief in central Puerto Rico that may have experienced relatively little drainage rearrangements. Shallow but significant genetic isolation of populations of E. sinuatifrons among Puerto Rican rivers suggests phylogeographic patterns that are intermediate to terrestrial habitat specialists (highly divergent populations) and other freshwater biota, such as amphidromous species and insects with aerial adult dispersal (highly connected populations).