National Park Service


Date of this Version



Molecules 2015, 20, 15158-15174


© 2015 by the authors

Open access



The blue land crab Cardisoma guanhumi is widely distributed throughout tropical and subtropical estuarine regions in the Western Central Atlantic (WCA). Patterns of population genetic structure and historical demographics of the species were assessed by mtDNA control region sequence analysis to examine the connectivity among five populations (n = 97) within the region for future conservation strategies and decision-making of fishery management. A total of 234 polymorphic nucleotides were revealed within the sequence region, which have defined 93 distinct haplotypes. No dominant mtDNA haplotypes were found but instead a distribution of a few low-frequency recurrent haplotypes with a large number of singletons. A NJ-tree and a median-joining haplotype network revealed two distinct clusters, corresponding to individuals from estuaries located along the Caribbean Sea and Brazilian waters, respectively. AMOVA and FST statistics supported the hypothesis that two main geographic regions exists. Phylogeographical discontinuity was further demonstrated by the Bayesian assignment analysis and a significant pattern of isolation-by-distance. Additionally, tests of neutral evolution and analysis of mismatch distribution indicate a complex demographic history in the WCA, which corresponds to bottleneck and subsequent population growth. Overall, a sharp genetic break between Caribbean and Brazilian populations raised concerns over the conservation status of the blue land crab.