Morphological and genetic differentiation of Patella granularis (Gastropoda: Patellidae): recognition of two sibling species along the coast of southern Africa



Morphological and isozyme variations between 13 populations of the species hitherto named Patella granularis were investigated to see whether differences in shell structure between the west coast versus the south and east coasts of southern Africa are supported by other morphological features or by genetic differences. The shells showed a definite decrease in size from west to east, but this is correlated with productivity and is of no diagnostic use in distinguishing between populations. Discriminant functions analysis based on shell morphometrics failed to separate populations from the three coastal regions. Shells from the northern east coast do, however, have shell nodules with a dark pigmentation, distinctly separating them from those further south and west. No differences in radular or soft part morphology were detected between the populations, but the four northernmost populations on the east coast have a significantly shorter Z looping of the gut than the other populations along the coast. Significant microstructural differences in the sperm were also detected between these two groups of populations. Electrophoretic analysis of 16 enzyme loci failed to detect any significant differences between the west and south coast populations, but revealed a genetic identity (Nei) of 0.528 as well as four diagnostic alleles between the four northernmost populations from the east coast compared with those to the south and west. The two genetically distinct forms occurred sympatrically at one of the study sites on the east coast (Coffee Bay). It was concluded the two groupings were sufficiently different to warrant the recognition of a separate species, which is centred in KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast and extends south to Coffee Bay, from where it is replaced by P. granularis. There is, however, no evidence at all that the west coast populations are in any way separable from the remaining populations of P. granularis on the south coast.