Highly migratory, cosmopolitan oceanic sharks often exhibit complex movement patterns influenced by ontogeny, reproduction, and feeding. These elusive species are particularly challenging to population genetic studies, as representative samples suitable for inferring genetic structure are difficult to obtain. Our study provides insights into the genetic population structure one of the most abundant and wide-ranging oceanic shark species, the blue shark Prionace glauca, by sampling the least mobile component of the populations, i.e., young-of-year and small juveniles (<2 year; N = 348 individuals), at three reported nursery areas, namely, western Iberia, Azores, and South Africa. Samples were collected in two different time periods (2002-2008 and 2012-2015) and were screened at 12 nuclear microsatellites and at a 899-bp fragment of the mitochondrial control region. Our results show temporally stable genetic homogeneity among the three Atlantic nurseries at both nuclear and mitochondrial markers, suggesting basin-wide panmixia. In addition, comparison of mtDNA CR sequences from Atlantic and Indo-Pacific locations also indicated genetic homogeneity and unrestricted female-mediated gene flow between ocean basins. These results are discussed in light of the species' life history and ecology, but suggest that blue shark populations may be connected by gene flow at the global scale. The implications of the present findings to the management of this important fisheries resource are also discussed.
This study was developed under the project PELAGICS (PTDC/MAR-BIO/4458/2012) funded by Portuguese national funds through FCT/MCTES (PIDDAC) and co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) through COMPETE—Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade (POFC). AV and NQ were funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/77487/2011 and IF/01611/2013, respectively). CSJ and LRN gratefully acknowledge funding from the Integrative and Environmental Physiology group (IEP), Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences (IBES), University of Aberdeen.
- Gene flow
- Highly migratory sharks
- Nursery areas