Microsatellite Analyses of Blacktip Reef Sharks in a Fragmented EnvironmentPublished on 09. April 2013
Microsatellite Analyses of Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) in a Fragmented Environment Show Structured Clusters
Vignaud T, Clua E, Mourier J, Maynard J, Planes S
The population dynamics of shark species are generally poorly described because highly mobile marine life is challenging to investigate. Here we investigate the genetic population structure of the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) in French Polynesia. Five demes were sampled from five islands with different inter-island distances (50–1500 km). Whether dispersal occurs between islands frequently enough to prevent moderate genetic structure is unknown. We used 11 microsatellites loci from 165 individuals and a strong genetic structure was found among demes with both F-statistics and Bayesian approaches. This differentiation is correlated with the geographic distance between islands. It is likely that the genetic structure seen is the result of all or some combination of the following: low gene flow, time since divergence, small effective population sizes, and the standard issues with the extent to which mutation models actually fit reality. We suggest low levels of gene flow as at least a partial explanation of the level of genetic structure seen among the sampled blacktip demes. This explanation is consistent with the ecological traits of blacktip reef sharks, and that the suitable habitat for blacktips in French Polynesia is highly fragmented. Evidence for spatial genetic structure of the blacktip demes we studied highlights that similar species may have populations with as yet undetected or underestimated structure. Shark biology and the market for their fins make them highly vulnerable and many species are in rapid decline. Our results add weight to the case that total bans on shark fishing are a better conservation approach for sharks than marine protected area networks.
PLoS ONE 8(4): e61067. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061067