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ESR 53:409-427 (2024)  -  DOI:

Population genetic structure of bottlenose and whitespotted wedgefishes from the Southwest Indian Ocean using a dual marker approach

Mia J. Groeneveld1,*, Juliana D. Klein1, Rhett H. Bennett2,3, Abdalla S. Abdulla2, Mark E. Bond4, David A. Ebert3,5, Stela M. Fernando6, Katie S. Gledhill7, Sebastien Jaquemet8, Jeremy J. Kiszka4, Angus H. H. Macdonald9, Bruce Q. Mann10, John Nevill11, Aidan S. Price1, Jordan Rumbelow1, Jorge J. Sitoe2, Michaela van Staden1, Barbara E. Wueringer12,13, Aletta E. Bester-van der Merwe1

1Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa
2Wildlife Conservation Society, Western Indian Ocean Shark and Ray Conservation Program, New York, New York 10460, USA
3South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
4Institute of Environment, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199, USA
5Pacific Shark Research Center, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA
6Instituto Oceanográfico de Moçambique, Maputo 1102, Mozambique
7Fish Ecology Lab, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, Sydney, New South Wales 2007, Australia
8UMR Entropie, Université de La Réunion, La Réunion 97744, France
9School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville 3630, South Africa
10Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban 4052, South Africa
11Environment Seychelles, Mahé 673310, Seychelles
12Sharks And Rays Australia, Bungalow, Queensland 4870, Australia
13School of Natural Sciences, Wallumattagal Campus, Macquarie University, New South Wales 2109, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Wedgefishes (Rhinidae) are threatened by unsustainable fishing globally, and especially in the Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO), due to their high-value fins in the shark trade. The whitespotted wedgefish Rhynchobatus djiddensis and the bottlenose wedgefish R. australiae are both classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, yet a lack of species-specific knowledge and taxonomic uncertainty still exists within this genus. Genetic approaches aid in taxonomic classification and identifying distinct populations for targeted conservation. Morphological specimen identification of samples (n = 189) collected across the SWIO was confirmed based on the cytochrome oxidase c subunit I (COI) and/or nicotinamide adenine dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) gene regions. The genetic diversity and population structure within and between species and sampling locations were investigated using a dual marker approach: (1) 2 concatenated mitochondrial gene regions, namely COI and the control region (n = 117), and (2) 9 nuclear microsatellite markers (n = 146). The overall genetic diversity was moderate, with an indication that different evolutionary forces are at play on a mitochondrial versus nuclear level. The 2 species were delineated based on both marker types, and for R. djiddensis, the sampling locations of South Africa and Mozambique were genetically homogeneous. For R. australiae, significant differentiation was found between sampling locations, with Madagascar and Tanzania being genetically the most similar. This information provides critical insights into the distribution range and population structure of the whitespotted wedgefish species complex that can support the sustainable management of wedgefishes.

KEY WORDS: Rhynchobatus australiae · R. djiddensis · Microsatellites · COI · Control region · ND2 · Species identification · Rhino rays

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Cite this article as: Groeneveld MJ, Klein JD, Bennett RH, Abdulla AS and others (2024) Population genetic structure of bottlenose and whitespotted wedgefishes from the Southwest Indian Ocean using a dual marker approach. Endang Species Res 53:409-427.

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