Genetic diversity and connectivity of the megamouth shark

Published on 05. March 2018

Genetic diversity and connectivity of the megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios)

Shang Yin Vanson Liu​, Shoou Jeng Joung, Chi-Ju Yu, Hua-Hsun Hsu, Wen-Pei Tsai, Kwang Ming Liu


The megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) was described as a new species in 1983. Since then, only ca. 100 individuals have been observed or caught. Its horizontal migration, dispersal, and connectivity patterns are still unknown due to its rarity. Two genetic markers were used in this study to reveal its genetic diversity and connectivity pattern. This approach provides a proxy to indirectly measure gene flow between populations. Tissues from 27 megamouth sharks caught by drift nets off the Hualien coast (eastern Taiwan) were collected from 2013 to 2015. With two additional tissue samples from megamouths caught in Baja California, Mexico, and sequences obtained from GenBank, we were able to perform the first population genetic analyses of the megamouth shark. The mtDNA cox1 gene and a microsatellite (Loc 6) were sequenced and analyzed. Our results showed that there is no genetic structure in the megamouth shark, suggesting a possible panmictic population. Based on occurrence data, we also suggest that the Kuroshio region, including the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan, may act as a passageway for megamouth sharks to reach their feeding grounds from April to August. Our results provide insights into the dispersal and connectivity of megamouth sharks. Future studies should focus on collecting more samples and conducting satellite tagging to better understand the global migration and connectivity pattern of the megamouth shark.

PeerJ 6:e4432, DOI 10.7717/peerj.4432



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