Effective number of white shark breeders is stable over four successive years in the population adjacent to eastern Australia and New Zealand

Published on
09. December 2020

Effective number of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias, Linnaeus) breeders is stable over four successive years in the population adjacent to eastern Australia and New Zealand

Danielle Davenport, Paul Butcher, Sara Andreotti, Conrad Matthee, Andrew Jones, Jennifer Ovenden


Population size is a central parameter for conservation; however, monitoring abundance is often problematic for threatened marine species. Despite substantial investment in research, many marine species remain data‐poor presenting barriers to the evaluation of conservation management outcomes and the modeling of future solutions. Such is the case for the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), a highly mobile apex predator for whom recent and substantial population declines have been recorded in many globally distributed populations. Here, we estimate the effective number of breeders that successfully contribute offspring in one reproductive cycle (Nb) to provide a snapshot of recent reproductive effort in an east Australian–New Zealand population of white shark. Nb was estimated over four consecutive age cohorts (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) using two genetic estimators (linkage disequilibrium; LD and sibship assignment; SA) based on genetic data derived from two types of genetic markers (single nucleotide polymorphisms; SNPs and microsatellite loci). While estimates of Nb using different marker types produced comparable estimates, microsatellite loci were the least precise. The LD and SA estimates of Nb within cohorts using SNPs were comparable; for example, the 2013 age cohort Nb(SA) was 289 (95% CI 200–461) and Nb(LD) was 208.5 (95% CI 116.4–712.7). We show that over the time period studied, Nb was stable and ranged between 206.1 (SD ± 45.9) and 252.0 (SD ± 46.7) per year using a combined estimate of Nb(LD+SA) from SNP loci. In addition, a simulation approach showed that in this population the effective population size (Ne) per generation can be expected to be larger than Nb per reproductive cycle. This study demonstrates how breeding population size can be monitored over time to provide insight into the effectiveness of recovery and conservation measures for the white shark, where the methods described here may be applicable to other data‐poor species of conservation concern.

Ecology and Evolution, Volume11, Issue1, DOI: 10.1002/ece3.7007


Leave a Reply