Site fidelity and shallow genetic structure in the common smooth-hound shark confirmed

Published on
17 October 2021

Site fidelity and shallow genetic structure in the common smooth-hound shark Mustelus mustelus confirmed by tag-recapture and genetic data

Juliana D. Klein, Tamaryn A. Asbury, Charlene da Silva, Kelvin L. Hull, Matthew L. Dicken, Enrico Gennari, Simo N. Maduna, Aletta E. Bester-van der Merwe


The common smooth-hound shark, Mustelus mustelus, is a widely distributed demersal shark under heavy exploitation from various fisheries throughout its distribution range. To assist in the development of appropriate management strategies, we evaluate stock structure, site fidelity and movement patterns along the species’ distribution in southern Africa based on a combination of molecular and long-term tag-recapture data. Eight species-specific microsatellite markers (N = 73) and two mitochondrial genes; nicotinamide adenine dehydrogenase subunit 4 and control region (N = 45) did not reveal any significant genetic structure among neighbouring sites. However, tagging data demonstrate a remarkable degree of site fidelity with 76% of sharks recaptured within 50 km of the original tagging location. On a larger geographic scale, dispersal is governed by oceanographic features as demonstrated by the lack of movements across the Benguela-Agulhas transition zone separating the South-East Atlantic Ocean (SEAO) and South-West Indian Ocean populations (SWIO). Microsatellite data supported very shallow ocean-based structure (SEAO and SWIO) and historical southward gene flow following the Agulhas Current, corroborating the influence of this dynamic oceanographic system on gene flow. Moreover, no movements between Namibia and South Africa were observed, indicating that the Lüderitz upwelling formation off the Namibian coast acts as another barrier to dispersal and gene flow. Overall, these results demonstrate that dispersal and stock structure of M. mustelus is governed by a combination of behavioural traits and oceanographic features such as steep temperature gradients, currents and upwelling systems.

Journal of Fish Biology, DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14926


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