Faculty Publications


The geographic structure of morphological variation in eight species of fiddler crabs (Ocypodidae: Genus Uca) from the eastern United States and Mexico

Document Type



Allometry, Geometric morphometrics, Intraspecific, Range size, Variation

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Biological Journal of the Linnean Society





First Page


Last Page



Species with larger geographic distributions are more likely to encounter a greater variety of environmental conditions and barriers to gene flow than geographically-restricted species. Thus, even closely-related species with similar life-history strategies might vary in degree and geographic structure of variation if they differ in geographic range size. In the present study, we investigated this using samples collected across the geographic ranges of eight species of fiddler crabs (Crustacea: Uca) from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America. Morphological variation in the carapace was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis of 945 specimens. Although the eight Uca species exhibit different degrees of intraspecific variation, widespread species do not necessarily exhibit more intraspecific or geographic variation in carapace morphology. Instead, species with more intraspecific variation show stronger morphological divergence among populations. This morphological divergence is partly a result of allometric growth coupled with differences in maximum body size among populations. On average, 10% of total within-species variation is attributable to allometry. Possible drivers of the remaining morphological differences among populations include gene flow mediated by ocean currents and plastic responses to various environmental stimuli, with isolation-by-distance playing a less important role. The results obtained indicate that morphological divergence among populations can occur over shorter distances than expected based on dispersal potential. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London.

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DOI of published version