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Mitochondrial DNA-inferred population structure and demographic history of the mitten crab (Eriocheir sensu stricto) found along the coast of mainland China


Sifa Li, Fax: +862165684153; E-mail:


The mitten crab, Eriocheir sensu stricto, is economically important in East Asia, although it is an invasive species in Europe and North America. Little is known about its population structure and historical demography in its native range, especially along the Pacific coast of China. We collected mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit II and cytochrome b sequences from 154 individuals distributed in the rivers along the Chinese coast and 15 individuals from Japan. Phylogenetic analysis resulted in three major monophyletic groups: northern China, southern China and Japan. Negligible migration was detected among those groups by coalescent analysis. Hence, we support the recognition of three species: Eriocheir hepuensis in southern China, Eriocheir sinensis in northern China and Eriocheir japonica in Japan. The populations in the middle (the Oujiang and Minjiang Rivers) possess a mixture of haplotypes similar to either the northern or the southern haplotypes. We believe that secondary intergradation as the most likely cause of the clinal variation based on examining the genetic variation in the latitudinal space. The estimated divergence time between E. sinensis and E. hepuensis is 2.24 million years ago (Ma), while the divergence time between E. japonica and E. sinensis is 1.83 Ma. Both are in the late Pliocene, suggesting that land bridges associated with low sea level during that time might have severed as vicariant barriers for speciation. The divergence of the northern population and the ‘northern haplotypes’ in the middle population was estimated at 0.12 Ma, while the time separating the southern population and the ‘southern haplotypes’ in the middle populations was estimated as 0.16 Ma, implicating possible secondary contact in the late Pleistocene.

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