Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Molecular systematics of six Calanus and three Metridia species (Calanoida: Copepoda)


The discrimination of species of the copepod genus, Calanus (Copepoda; Calanoida), is problematical-especially in regions of sympatry. Although the species of Calanus exhibit exceptional morphological similarity, they are quite distinct in genetic character. The DNA base sequences of the mitochondrial large subunit (16S) ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene unambiguously discriminated C. finmarchicus (Gunnerus 1765), C. glacialis (Jaschnov 1955), C. marshallae (Frost 1974), C. helgolandicus (Claus 1863), C. pacificus (Brodsky 1948), C. sinicus (Brodsky 1965), and C. hyperboreus (Kroyer 1838). Sequence differences among Calanus species for this gene portion range from 7.3% (between C. glacialis and C. marshallae) to 23.9% (between C. glacialis and C. sinicus). Differences among conspecific individuals were approximately 1 to 2%. [These sequence data were determined between April and November 1993; the sequenced domain is similar to that published previously in Bucklin et al. (1992) but are derived from analysis of additional individuals.] Statistical analysis of the sequence data using a variety of tree-building algorithms separated the taxa into one group of species corresponding to the C. finmarchicus group (C. finmarchicus, C. marshallae, and C. glacialis) and another ungrouped set of species corresponding to the C. helgolandicus group (C. helgolandicus, C. pacificus, and C. sinicus). The C. helgolandicus group may be older than the C. finmarchicus group, making the tree topology less reliable in this area. Calanus hyperboreus was an outlier; Nannocalanus minor (Claus 1863) was the outgroup. Similar analysis of Metridia species confirmed that M. lucens (Boeck 1864) and M. pacifica (Brodsky 1948) are distinct species; M. longa (Lubbock 1854) was still more divergent. These sequence data will allow the design of simple, molecular tools for taxonomic identifications. Diagnostic characters, assayed by rapid molecular protocols, will enable biological oceanographers to answer important questions about the distribution and abundance of all life stages (as well as patterns of reproduction) of morphologically similar species, such as those of Calanus.

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Marine Biology



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