Hybridization between Crocodylus acutus and Crocodylus moreletii in the Yucatan Peninsula: I. Evidence from mitochondrial DNA and morphology

José Rogelio Cedeño-Vázquez, David Rodriguez, Sophie Calmé, James Perran Ross, Llewellyn D. Densmore, And John B. Thorbjarnarson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the Morelet's crocodile (C. moreletii) are broadly sympatric in Belize and Mexico. The presence of morphologically anomalous individuals in the overlapping range area suggests possible hybridization between these species. Analysis of 477 base pairs of the mitochondrial tRNAPro-tRNAPhe-Dloop region revealed the presence of pure C. acutus (N = 43) and C. moreletii (N = 56), as well as a high proportion of interspecific hybrids (N = 17, 14.6%) in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Although all individuals could be assigned to one species or other based on phenotypic characters, some had been characterized as potential hybrids in the field by anomalous scale counts. The hybridization zone lies along the area of sympatry between C. acutus and C. moreletii investigated in this study, but extends further inland if hybrid localities from Belize are included. Hybridization in the Yucatan Peninsula is bidirectional, which indicates considerably more genetic contact between these species than previously recognized, and is probably more detrimental to the genetic integrity of smaller C. acutus populations. A more intensive study of the pattern of hybridization is warranted and supports continued classification of C. acutus as a critically threatened species in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-673
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
Volume309
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2008

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