Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the Afrotropical freshwater crab fauna

Freshwater organisms, such as crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura), are useful in studies examining inland historical biogeographic patterns and speciation because they are isolated to specific drainage systems, which often serve as barriers to gene flow. The Afrotropical freshwater crab fauna (Potamonautidae) present ideal organisms for investigating hypothesis relating to evolutionary histories because they occur on continental Africa (sub-Sahara) and islands. However, there is a great deal of undiscovered freshwater crab diversity, especially with the prevalence of undiscovered cryptic lineages, which are poorly studied among freshwater crabs, leading to uncertain regional diversity.

In this research, multiple genetic (mt- and nuDNA) markers were used to infer the phylogenetic relationships and the biogeographical histories of the Afrotropical freshwater crab superfamily, Potamonautidae. Divergence time estimations were used to infer biogeographic histories, to ascertain whether speciation could be linked to past geologic and / or climatic events. Two widely distributed Potamonautes species complexes were targeted for the investigation of regional cryptic species diversity. In Chapter 2, the intraspecific phylogenetic variability within Potamonautes perlatus sensu lato occurring on the Cape Fold Mountain range (South Africa) was examined, with sampling localities occurring in western- and southern flowing drainages.

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