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.
|Number of pages||13|
|Journal||Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology|
|State||Published - Dec 2008|