Clarifying marine invasions with molecular markers: an illustration based on mtDNA from mistaken calyptraeid gastropod identifications

DJ McGlashan, M Ponniah, Phillip Cassey, F Viard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


Species invasions are occurring at an increasing rate in coastal environments. Accurately identifying introductions is a critical issue to take full advantage of the new invasion databases. Further, life history differences between morphologically comparable species may require that different management strategies be instigated to effectively control different species. Facing this problem, we used molecular approaches and documented a case of mistaken identification in a group of marine invertebrates, the calyptraeid gastropods. Members of this group have repeatedly and successfully invaded new habitats after anthropogenic introduction, especially in estuaries and bays on the west coast of the United States of America. For example, Crepidula fornicata, native to the east coast of the USA, has been reported from at least five USA west coast estuaries. We sequenced a fragment of the COI gene of a sample of putative C. fornicata from Humboldt Bay, California. By constructing a phylogeny of these and other calpytraeid gastropod sequences, we discovered that the individuals were C. convexa, the convex slippershell. In contrast to C. fornicata, C. convexa has large, demersal eggs and larvae are well developed at hatching. Its potential for dispersal is therefore lower as compared to C. fornicata and therefore any strategy to manage the invasion should take this into account. In the present study, we demonstrated the utility of molecular tools that can be used by non-taxonomic experts, to quickly and accurately identify alien species - an important first step in any study of invasion biology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Crepidula
  • mollusc
  • invasion
  • mtDNA


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