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The distribution of fiddler crabs (Uca) along the coast of Brazil: implications for biogeography of the western Atlantic Ocean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2013

Carl L. Thurman*
The University of Northern Iowa, Department of Biology, IA, USA
Samuel C. Faria
Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Biologia, FFCLRP, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil
John C. McNamara
Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Biologia, FFCLRP, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil
Correspondence should be addressed to: C.L. Thurman, Department of Biology, University of Northern Iowa, 144 McCollum Science Hall, Cedar Falls, IA, 50614-0421, USA email:
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To assess and analyse accurately their geographical distributions, fiddler crabs (Uca) from the Atlantic coast of Brazil were studied using field collections, museum specimens and literature reports. More than 7000 specimens of ten Uca species were collected across five coastal biomes from 63 sites on the Atlantic coast of South America between the Brazilian States of Amapá and Santa Catarina in 2009 and 2010. Based on our analyses of mouthparts and habitat osmolality (=salinity), each species seems to prefer a particular niche defined by a specific array of physical factors. The species' distributions form four geographical patterns along the South Atlantic coast; however, the different species do not occur uniformly within each biome. Most common are U. (M.) rapax, U. (L.) leptodactyla, U. (B.) thayeri and U. (U.) maracoani with the relative abundance of each varying among the biomes according to habitat availability. Owing to their high constituent diversity, two geographical areas are candidates for biological conservation efforts. Considering fossil records, molecular clocks, oceanic hydrology and plate tectonics over the last 65 million years, the biogeographical patterns of the extant species can be used to reconstruct an evolutionary scenario for Uca in the tropical and temperate zones of the western Atlantic Ocean.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2013

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