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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 14;6(3):e17828. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017828.

Interspecific hybridization and mitochondrial introgression in invasive carcinus shore crabs.

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  • 1Molecular Ecology Research Branch, National Exposure Research Laboratory, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America.


Interspecific hybridization plays an important role in facilitating adaptive evolutionary change. More specifically, recent studies have demonstrated that hybridization may dramatically influence the establishment, spread, and impact of invasive populations. In Japan, previous genetic evidence for the presence of two non-native congeners, the European green crab Carcinus maenas and the Mediterranean green crab C. aestuarii, has raised questions regarding the possibility of hybridization between these sister species. Here I present analysis based on both nuclear microsatellites and the mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase subunit I (COI) gene which unambiguously argues for a hybrid origin of Japanese Carcinus. Despite the presence of mitochondrial lineages derived from both C. maenas and C. aestuarii, the Japanese population is panmictic at nuclear loci and has achieved cytonuclear equilibrium throughout the sampled range in Japan. Furthermore, analysis of admixture at nuclear loci indicates dramatic introgression of the C. maenas mitochondrial genome into a predominantly C. aestuarii nuclear background. These patterns, along with inferences drawn from the observational record, argue for a hybridization event pre-dating the arrival of Carcinus in Japan. The clarification of both invasion history and evolutionary history afforded by genetic analysis provides information that may be critically important to future studies aimed at assessing risks posed by invasive Carcinus populations to Japan and the surrounding region.

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