Mitochondrial DNA haplotype diversity and origin of captive sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus)
The sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) is listed as globally vulnerable with geographically confined and disrupted global populations with little or no gene flow between them. Captive breeding in aquaria of these sharks would reduce the need to populate displays with wild-caught individuals, however, sand tigers are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. In this study we analysed 520bp of the mitochondrial D-loop to assess the haplotype diversity of 19 captive sand tiger sharks, from UK and US aquaria sampled in a non-invasive fashion through DNA extracted from shed teeth. Data obtained were compared to known geographically mapped wild haplotypes to establish whether individuals from different global populations are being housed together. We were able to identify the haplotype of a minimum of ten of the 19 sharks, detecting four different haplotypes, with a previously undescribed haplotype (Haplotype K) found from a captive sample. A major genetic subdivision between the haplotypes of the North West Atlantic and the other global populations has been previously shown from population genetic analyses. Our results indicate that captive sharks can be from either side of this subdivision and occasionally these can be co-housed in the same aquarium. Since sharks with highly divergent genetic ancestry are being kept together, these findings have implications for conservation efforts regarding the individual needs of sand tiger shark populations and for captive breeding program success rates.
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