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      Microsatellite Analyses of Blacktip Reef Sharks ( Carcharhinus melanopterus) in a Fragmented Environment Show Structured Clusters

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          The population dynamics of shark species are generally poorly described because highly mobile marine life is challenging to investigate. Here we investigate the genetic population structure of the blacktip reef shark ( Carcharhinus melanopterus) in French Polynesia. Five demes were sampled from five islands with different inter-island distances (50–1500 km). Whether dispersal occurs between islands frequently enough to prevent moderate genetic structure is unknown. We used 11 microsatellites loci from 165 individuals and a strong genetic structure was found among demes with both F-statistics and Bayesian approaches. This differentiation is correlated with the geographic distance between islands. It is likely that the genetic structure seen is the result of all or some combination of the following: low gene flow, time since divergence, small effective population sizes, and the standard issues with the extent to which mutation models actually fit reality. We suggest low levels of gene flow as at least a partial explanation of the level of genetic structure seen among the sampled blacktip demes. This explanation is consistent with the ecological traits of blacktip reef sharks, and that the suitable habitat for blacktips in French Polynesia is highly fragmented. Evidence for spatial genetic structure of the blacktip demes we studied highlights that similar species may have populations with as yet undetected or underestimated structure. Shark biology and the market for their fins make them highly vulnerable and many species are in rapid decline. Our results add weight to the case that total bans on shark fishing are a better conservation approach for sharks than marine protected area networks.

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          Author and article information

          Role: Editor
          PLoS One
          PLoS ONE
          PLoS ONE
          Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
          9 April 2013
          : 8
          : 4
          [1 ]Laboratoire d'Excellence «CORAIL» USR 3278 CNRS – EPHE, CRIOBE, Papetoai, Moorea, Polynésie Française
          [2 ]Direction Régionale Recherche et Technologie, French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Paris, France
          [3 ]Center for Marine Science, CREST Research Park of UNCW, Wilmington, North Carolina, United States of America
          Monash University, Australia
          Author notes

          Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

          Conceived and designed the experiments: TV SP. Performed the experiments: TV J. Mourier EC SP. Analyzed the data: TV. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: TV SP. Wrote the paper: TV J. Maynard.


          This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

          Page count
          Pages: 8
          The DIREN Polynesia provided funding for the fieldwork in Maria. The Service de la Pêche (Polynesia) provided funding for the fieldwork in Fakahina. The Ministère de l'Ecologie du Développement Durable et de l'Energie, The FondsPacifique, CRISP and IMODEL provided funding or assisted with fieldwork, logistics and analysis. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
          Research Article
          Ecological Environments
          Marine Environments
          Ecological Metrics
          Relative Abundance Distribution
          Species Diversity
          Behavioral Ecology
          Community Ecology
          Conservation Science
          Marine Ecology
          Population Genetics
          Gene Flow
          Marine Biology
          Marine Conservation
          Marine Ecology
          Marine Monitoring



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