Genomic divergence and differential gene expression between crustacean ecotypes across a marine thermal gradient

Arsalan Emami-Khoyi, Ingrid S. Knapp, Daniela M. Monsanto, Bettine Jansen van Vuuren, Robert J. Toonen, Peter R. Teske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Environmental gradients between marine biogeographical provinces separate distinct faunal communities. However, the absence of absolute dispersal barriers allows numerous species to occur on both sides of such boundaries. While the regional populations of such widespread species are often morphologically indistinguishable from each other, genetic evidence suggests that they represent unique ecotypes, and likely even cryptic species, that may be uniquely adapted to their local environment. Here, we explored genomic divergence in four sympatric southern African decapod crustaceans whose ranges span the boundary between the cool-temperate west coast (south-eastern Atlantic) and the warm-temperate south coast (south-western Indian Ocean) near the southern tip of the African continent. Using genome-wide data, we found that all four species comprise distinct west coast and south coast ecotypes, with molecular dating suggesting divergence during the Pleistocene. Transcriptomic data from the hepatopancreas of twelve specimens of one of these species, the mudprawn Upogebia africana, which were exposed to either 10 °C or 20 °C, showed a clear difference in gene expression profiles between the west- and south coast ecotypes. This difference was particularly clear at 10 °C, where individuals from the south coast experienced a ‘transcriptomic shock’. This low temperature is more typical of the west coast during upwelling events, and the physiological stress experienced by the south coast ecotype under such conditions may explain its absence from that coastline. Our results shed new light on the processes involved in driving genomic divergence and incipient speciation along coastlines with porous dispersal barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100847
JournalMarine Genomics
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Climate change
  • Decapod crustaceans
  • Ecological speciation
  • Gene expression
  • Genomic divergence
  • Pool-Seq
  • RNAseq
  • Temperature adaptation
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Genomic divergence and differential gene expression between crustacean ecotypes across a marine thermal gradient'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this