Disentangling the identities and distribution patterns of the introduced beachfleas Orchestia gammarellus and Platorchestia platensis (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Talitridae) in South Africa
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Two introduced beachfleas, Orchestia gammarellus and Platorchestia platensis, have been recorded from South Africa, but have been misidentified by some earlier researchers and, prior to this study, each was also known from just a few, scattered observations, such that their true distributions remained obscure. We illustrate both species to clarify the features that identify and distinguish them and determine their true distributions by re-examining historical samples and by collecting new material from estuaries and lagoons along the west and south coasts of South Africa. Adult males of O. gammarellus have slender antennae and characteristic expanded, flattened, oar-like distal segments on pereopod 7. Adult males of P. platensis have the peduncle of antenna 2 strongly swollen and have bulbous, but not flattened, distal segments on pereopod 7. Both species occur under wrack and other debris along the banks of estuaries and sheltered lagoons. Orchestia gammarellus is found only along the south-west coast, in the Berg River Estuary, Langebaan Lagoon and the Diep River Estuary. Previous records from Knysna were misidentifications of P. platensis. Platorchestia platensis is found at one west coast site, Langebaan Lagoon, but is widely distributed from Cape Point eastwards to at least Algoa Bay. Both species share the same habitats as several other native beachfleas and competitive interactions between native and introduced species merit investigation.