Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 8, pp 1573–1583 | Cite as

Genetic diversity and population structure of the Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis in its native range

  • Liying Sui
  • Fumin Zhang
  • Xiaomei Wang
  • Peter Bossier
  • Patrick Sorgeloos
  • Bernd HänflingEmail author
Original Paper


The Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis is an indigenous and economically important species in China, but can also be found as invasive species in Europe and America. Mitten crabs have been exploited extensively as a food resource since the 1990s. Despite its ecological and economic importance, the genetic structure of native mitten crab populations is not well understood. In this paper, we investigated the genetic structure of mitten crab populations in China by screening samples from ten locations covering six river systems at six microsatellite loci. Our results provide further evidence that mitten crabs from the River Nanliujiang in Southern China are a genetically differentiated population within the native range of Eriocheir, and should be recognized as a separate taxonomic unit. In contrast, extremely low levels of genetic differentiation and no significant geographic population structure were found among the samples located north of the River Nanliujiang. Based on the reproductive biology of mitten crabs and the geography of their habitat we argue that both natural and human-mediated gene flow are unlikely to fully account for the similar allele frequency distributions at microsatellite loci. Large population sizes of mitten crabs suggest instead that a virtual absence of genetic drift and significant homoplasy of microsatellite alleles have contributed to the observed pattern. Furthermore, a coalescent-based maximum likelihood method indicated a more than two-fold lower effective population size of the Southern population compared to the Northern Group and low but significant levels of gene flow between both areas.


Genetic Differentiation Effective Population Size Yangtze River Basin Yangtze River Estuary Bayesian Cluster Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The first author received an ICP Ph.D. scholarship from the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR), Belgium in support of this research. The native sample collection was supported by Tianjin Science and Technology Development Fund and the International Cooperation Fund (Project No. 033803511 and 033803511G) and Tianjin Higher Education Science and Technology Development fund (2004BA31), China. The authors would like to express their gratitude to Prof. S. F. Li from Shanghai Fisheries University, China, for providing one of the native samples. M. Harley provided assistance in the laboratory. D. Weetman and C. van Oosterhout provided useful comments on the manuscript. Sampling protocols and laboratory procedures complied with the current laws of China and the UK, respectively.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liying Sui
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fumin Zhang
    • 3
  • Xiaomei Wang
    • 4
  • Peter Bossier
    • 2
  • Patrick Sorgeloos
    • 2
  • Bernd Hänfling
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Marine Resources and Chemistry of Tianjin, College of Marine Science and EngineeringTianjin University of Science and TechnologyTianjinChina
  2. 2.Laboratory of Aquaculture and Artemia Reference CenterGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary BotanyInstitute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Aqua-Ecology and AquacultureTianjin Agricultural UniversityTianjinChina
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of HullHullUK

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