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

Phylogeography of the copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) in the southern hemisphere: implications for the conservation of a coastal apex predator

Martin T. Benavides A , Kevin A. Feldheim B , Clinton A. Duffy C , Sabine Wintner D , J. Matias Braccini E , Jessica Boomer F , Charlie Huveneers G H , Paul Rogers G H , Jeffrey C. Mangel I J , Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto I J , Daniel P. Cartamil K and Demian D. Chapman A

A Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA.

B Field Museum, Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA.

C Aquatic and Threats Unit, Department of Conservation, Auckland, New Zealand.

D KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Private Bag 2, Umhlanga Rocks 4320, and Biomedical Resource Unit, University of KwaZulu–Natal, Durban 4000, South Africa.

E Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z4, Canada. Present address: Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Southern Fisheries Centre, Deception Bay, Qld 4508, Australia.

F Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.

G Threatened, Endangered, and Protected Species Subprogram, SARDI – Aquatic Sciences, Adelaide, SA 5024, Australia.

H School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5043, Australia.

I Pro Delphinus, Octavio Bernal 572-5, Lima 11, Perú.

J Centre for Ecology and Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, United Kingdom.

K Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive (Mail code: 0204), La Jolla, CA 92093-0204, USA.

L Corresponding author. Email: demian.chapman@stonybrook.edu

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(7) 861-869 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10236
Submitted: 9 September 2011  Accepted: 15 January 2011   Published: 25 July 2011

Abstract

The copper or bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) is a large, coastal top predator that is vulnerable to overexploitation. We test the null hypothesis that copper sharks are panmictic throughout the southern hemisphere. We analysed part of the mitochondrial control region (mtCR) in 120 individuals from eight sampling areas, defining 20 mtCR haplotypes (h = 0.76 ± 0.06, π = 0.016 ± 0.0007). Significant genetic structure was detected among the following three major coastal regions separated by oceanic habitat: Australia–New Zealand, South Africa–Namibia and Perú (AMOVA ΦST = 0.95, P < 0.000001). A major phylogeographic discontinuity exists across the Indian Ocean, indicating an absence of at least female-mediated gene flow for ~3 million years. We propose that this species originated in the Atlantic, experienced vicariant isolation of Pacific and Atlantic lineages by the rise of the Isthmus of Panama and, subsequently, dispersed across the Pacific to colonise Australasia. Oceanic expanses appear to be traversed over evolutionary but not ecological timescales, which means that regional copper-shark populations should be assessed and managed independently.

Additional keywords: bronze whaler, control region, fin trade, mitochondrial DNA, population genetics.


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