Molecular variation in the spiny lobster Panulirus argus: Recruitment aspects

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Marine Biology and Fisheries

First Committee Member

Patrick J. Walsh - Committee Chair


Within the tropical north western Atlantic, Panulirus argus, Panulirus guttatus and Panulirus laevicauda, (family: Palinuridae), are sympatric. Numerous studies have examined the distribution and abundance of planktonic phyllosome larvae with respect to recruitment of spiny lobsters, but the data are somewhat compromised since larvae of these species are indistinguishable based on morphological characteristics. A chapter of this dissertation describes a simple molecular method that unambiguously differentiates larvae of P. argus, P. guttatus and P. laevicauda. This method utilizes the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify a region of 28s ribosomal DNA (rDNA), and upon digestion with restriction enzymes, diagnostic banding patterns were observed for each spiny lobster species. Application of this method was demonstrated on phyllosomes caught in a representative plankton tow.Separate genetic studies were conducted on settling post-larvae (pueruli) and adult spiny lobsters. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation was assessed in 160 pueruli collected in the Florida Keys during each season of the 1989-90 calendar year (in addition to a single sampling in the winter of 1992) and analyzed for genetic differences among seasonal cohorts. 259 adult spiny lobsters from nine widely separated geographic locations (Venezuela to Bermuda) were analyzed for genetic population structure. High haplotype and nucleotide sequence diversity was observed in both pueruli and adults. Population subdivision or structure was not found among adults and no differences were observed among seasonally sampled pueruli. Inter-season (pueruli) sequence diversity and inter-locale sequence diversity (adult lobsters) were not significantly different from zero. No seasonal (pueruli) or geographic (adult lobsters) heterogeneity in haplotype frequency distribution was found (p $<$ 0.05). Lobsters did not appear to cluster (UPGMA) according to season (pueruli) or locale (adults). Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed no evidence for genetic differentiation among seasons (pueruli) or populations (Adults).The P. argus mitochondrial genome was cloned in toto and used as a molecular probe for the mtDNA genetic investigations. A technical note is included detailing methods used to clone the entire spiny lobster mtDNA, which may be general to cloning mtDNA from other species.


Biology, Genetics; Biology, Oceanography

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