Delimitation of morphologically similar sponge crab species of the genus Pseudodromia (Crustacea, Decapoda, Dromiidae) from South Africa

Barbara Stewart, G. Gouws, S.R. Daniels, C.A. Matthee

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Presently, three Pseudodromia sponge crab species are recognized, all of which are endemic to the continental shelf off the coast of South Africa. Two of these differ only in the morphology of their rostral teeth, making them difficult to distinguish, and can thus be considered as cryptic species. In addition they have very similar distribution ranges, thus raising doubts as to their specific status. Discriminant function analysis of morphometric data, differentiation at 10 allozyme loci, and sequence data derived from the 12S rRNA mitochondrial gene were used to test whether specimens identified as P. latens and P. rotunda are morphological forms of a single, widespread species, or represent two, distinct, reproductively isolated species, and to establish whether these two taxa are sister species, and thus form a monophyletic entity. The presence of fixed allele differences at three, and strong genetic heterogeneity at five other allozyme loci, indicating no gene flow occurring between sympatric populations, as well as the relatively high degree of 12S rRNA and allozyme genetic differentiation observed, supported the recognition of P. latens and P. rotunda as separate species. The 12S rRNA topology suggested that the genus Pseudodromia, as presently constituted, is paraphyletic, thus inferring that the morphological characters used to define this taxon might not be useful for phylogenetic inferences. It was concluded that in view of the uncertainties raised regarding the designation and composition of certain genera within the family Dromiidae, further rigorous analyses of morphological and genetic data are needed to further our understanding of the taxonomy of the sponge crabs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-55
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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