Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Mitochondrial DNA supports the identification of two endangered river sharks (Glyphis glyphis and Glyphis garricki) across northern Australia

Louise Wynen A H , Helen Larson B , Dean Thorburn C , Stirling Peverell D , David Morgan E , Iain Field F G and Karen Gibb A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Bioscience North Australia, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

B Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia.

C Indo-Pacific Environmental Pty Ltd, Joondanna, WA 6023, Australia.

D Northern Fisheries Centre, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

E Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research, Murdoch University, Perth, WA 6150, Australia.

F School for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

G Australian Institute for Marine Science, Arafura Timor Research Facility, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(6) 554-562
Submitted: 2 July 2008  Accepted: 5 January 2009   Published: 19 June 2009


The river sharks (genus Glyphis) are a small group of poorly known sharks occurring in tropical rivers and estuarine waters across northern Australia, south-east Asia and the subcontinent. The taxonomy of the genus has long been unclear due to very few individuals having been caught and examined, resulting in a paucity of data regarding their distribution, biology and ecology. Only recently has attention focussed on the two Australian species, G. glyphis and G. garricki. This study is a result of a rare opportunity to collate the few samples that have been collected from these species and the bull shark Carcharhinus leucas, which shares an overlapping range. These samples were analysed using the DNA barcoding approach (cox1 mitochondrial gene), compared with six other species of carcharhinids and evaluated in light of the current taxonomic classification. Nine species-specific nucleotide differences were found between G. glyphis and G. garricki and no intra-specific variation provides strong support for the separation into distinct species. Significant differences were also observed at the inter-generic level, with Glyphis forming a distinct clade from Carcharhinus. This study provides the basis for future molecular studies required to better address conservation issues confronting G. glyphis and G. garricki in Australia.

Additional keywords: cytochrome oxidase, northern river shark, speartooth shark.


This work was made possible by funding from the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australia and support from Charles Darwin University. We thank Claire Streten-Joyce, Bree Tillett, Peter Kaia and Iain Jupp from Charles Darwin University, Damien Broderick and Jenny Ovenden from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Rik Buckworth and Grant Johnson of the NT Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, and Kakadu rangers Garry Lindner, Calvin Murakami and David Brown for their invaluable advice and assistance to this study. We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved this paper.


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