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Utility of Mitochondrial DNA Sequences from Four Gene Regions for Systematic Studies of Australian Freshwater Crayfish of the Genus Cherax (Decapoda: Parastacidae)

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Abstract One of the most important requirements for systematic and phylogenetic studies is the identification of gene regions with the appropriate level of variation for the question of interest. Molecular phylogenetic and systematic studies of freshwater crayfish have made use of DNA sequences mainly from ribosomal genes, especially the 16S rRNA gene region. Thus, little information is available on other potentially useful mitochondrial gene regions for systematic studies in these animals. In this study, we look at nucleotide variation and phylogenetic relations within and between four species of freshwater crayfish of the genus Cherax from the southwest of Western Australia using four fragments amplified from the 16S rRNA, 12S rRNA, Cytochrome Oxidase I (COI), and Cytochrome b (Cyt b) gene regions. Samples of Engaeus strictifrons, Euastacus bispinosus, and Geocharax falcata were also sequenced for comparative purposes. The size of the fragments varied from 358 bp to 600 bp. Across all samples, the four fragments showed significant phylogenetic signal and showed similar proportions of variable sites (28.81–37.33%). Average divergence within species for the mitochondrial gene regions varied from 1.18% to 4.91%, with the 16S rRNA being the least variable and Cyt b the most variable. Average divergence between species ranged 7.63–15.53%, with 16S rRNA being the least variable and COI the most variable. At the generic level, average divergence ranged 17.21–23.82%. Phylogenetic analyses of the 16S rRNA, 12S rRNA, and COI regions generated four clades consistent with the presence of four species previously identified on the basis of allozyme and morphological studies. The relationships among samples were largely congruent across the data set, although some relationships remained unresolved. Not all samples could be amplified using the Cyt b primers, and some of those that were showed quite anomalous relationships, suggesting that one or more Cyt b pseudogenes were being amplified.

Affiliations: 1: (DHNM, NPM, CMA) School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University, P.O. Box 423, Warrnambool, VIC 3280, Australia; (DHNM permanent address) Department of Zoology, University of Ruhuna, Matara, Sri Lanka; corresponding author (CMA) (


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