High levels of population genetic differentiation in the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

Natalia A. Rossi, Angelica Menchaca-Rodriguez, Rafael Antelo, Byron Wilson, Kurt McLaren, Frank Mazzotti, Rafael Crespo, Joe Wasilewski, Fernando Alda, Ignacio Doadrio, Tito R. Barros, Evon Hekkala, Manuel Alonso-Tabet, Yairen Alonso-Gimenez, Manuel Lopez, Georgina Espinosa-Lopez, Joe Burgess, John B. Thorbjarnarson, Joshua R. Ginsberg, Kent A. VlietGeorge Amato

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The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a widely distributed species across coastal and brackish areas of the Neotropical region of the Americas and the Greater Antilles. Available information on patterns of genetic differentiation in C. acutus shows a complex structuring influenced by interspecific interactions (mainly hybridization) and anthropogenic actions (mostly historical hunting, recent poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and unintentional translocation of individuals). In this study, we used data on mitochondrial DNA control region and 11 nuclear polymorphic microsatellite loci to assess the degree of population structure of C. acutus in South America, North America, Central America and the Greater Antilles. We used traditional genetic differentiation indices, Bayesian clustering and multivariate methods to create a more comprehensive picture of the genetic relationships within the species across its range. Analyses of mtDNA and microsatellite loci show evidence of a strong population genetic structure in the American crocodile, with unique populations in each sampling locality. Our results support previous findings showing large degrees of genetic differentiation between the continental and the Greater Antillean C. acutus. We report three new haplotypes unique to Venezuela, which are considerably less distant from the Central and North American haplotypes than to the Greater Antillean ones. Our findings reveal genetic population differentiation between Cuban and Jamaican C. acutus and offer the first evidence of strong genetic differentiation among the populations of Greater Antillean C. acutus.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0235288
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


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