Both red snow crab (Chionoecetes japonicus Rathbun, 1932) and snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio Fabricius, 1788) are commercially important species in Korea. The geographical ranges of the two species overlap in the East Sea, where both species are fished commercially. Morphological identification of the two species and putative hybrids can be difficult because of their overlapping morphological characteristics. The presence of putative hybrids can affect the total allowable catch (TAC) of C. japonicus and C. opilio, and causes problems managing C. japonicus and C. opilio wild resources. To date, however, no natural hybridization has been reported between C. japonicus and C. opilio, despite their overlapping distributions along the coast of the East Sea. In this study, the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of major ribosomal RNA genes from the nuclear genome and the cytochrome oxidase I (CO I) gene from the mitochondrial genome were sequenced to determine whether natural hybridization occurs between the two species. Our results revealed that all putative hybrids identified using morphological traits had two distinct types of ITS sequences corresponding to those of both parental species. Mitochondrial CO I gene sequencing showed that all putative hybrids had sequences identical to C. japonicus. A genotyping assay based on single nucleotide polymorphisms in the ITS1 region and the CO I gene produced the most efficient and accurate identification of all hybrid individuals. Molecular data clearly demonstrate that natural hybridization does occur between C. japonicus and C. opilio, but only with C. japonicus as the maternal parent.
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Vol. 31 • No. 1