Cryptic biological invasions are largely unrecognised, leading to an underestimation of the number of invading taxa and their potential impacts. The Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, is a highly invasive species with serious economic and ecological impacts in Europe. Recently, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the Japanese mitten crab, E. japonica, has been discovered in populations from The Netherlands, Poland and Germany, but the taxonomic status and time of introduction of specimens carrying this mtDNA are uncertain. To this end, we investigated the morphology and variation of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene of mitten crabs collected in central-western Europe between 1998 and 2020. Mitten crabs from Belgium harboured a Japanese mitten crab COI haplotype in 33% to 65% of individuals, even in our earliest samples from 1998. All other studied populations carried only Chinese mitten crab COI haplotypes. Morphologically, many of the juvenile Belgian mitten crabs showed intermediate traits between the two species, while all investigated adult mitten crabs, regardless of their mitochondrial haplotype or country of origin, were morphologically assigned to E. sinensis. This intermediate morphology of the juveniles and genetic-morphological discrepancy of adults suggests that Japanese mitten crabs introgressed with Chinese mitten crabs, which could have happened both before and after the introduction of mitten crabs to Europe. A specific Chinese mitten crab COI haplotype, found in Belgium, was previously only known from Vladivostok (Russia), where Chinese and Japanese mitten crab hybrids naturally occur. This Far East region is, therefore, a plausible source for at least part of the mitten crab mitochondrial diversity in Belgium. Copyright © 2022 Lena Homberger et al.
CitationHomberger, L., Xu, J., Brandis, D., Chan, T.-Y., Keirsebelik, H., Normant-Saremba, M., . . . Ewers-Saucedo, C. (2022). Genetic and morphological evidence indicates the persistence of Japanese mitten crab mitochondrial DNA in Europe for over 20 years and its introgression into Chinese mitten crabs. NeoBiota, 73, 137-152. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.73.72566
- Mitochondrial DNA
- Mitten crab
- Museum collections