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A single panmictic population of endemic red crabs, Gecarcoidea natalis, on Christmas Island with high levels of genetic diversity
journal contributionposted on 2014-08-01, 00:00 authored by A R Weeks, M J Smith, A van Rooyen, D Maple, Adam MillerAdam Miller
The red crab, Gecarcoidea natalis, is endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and largely responsible for shaping the unique ecosystem found throughout the island's rainforests. However, the introduction and establishment of supercolonies of the highly invasive yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, has decimated red crab numbers over the last several decades. This poses a significant risk to the future conservation of G. natalis and consequently threatens the integrity of the unique island ecosystem. Here we undertook a population genetic analysis of G. natalis using a combination of 11 microsatellite markers and sequencing of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene from samples collected on Christmas Island as well as a single location from North Keeling Island (located approximately 900 km west of Christmas Island). The genetic results indicate that G. natalis is a single panmictic population on Christmas Island, with no spatial genetic structure or restricted gene flow apparent between sampled locations. Further, G. natalis from North Keeling Island are not genetically distinct and are recent immigrants from Christmas Island. The effective population size of G. natalis has likely remained large and stable on Christmas Island throughout its evolutionary history with relatively moderate to high levels of genetic diversity in microsatellite loci and mitochondrial haplotypes assessed in this study. For management purposes G. natalis can be considered a single panmictic population, which should simplify conservation efforts for the genetic management of this iconic island species. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.