Barriers in a sea of elasmobranchs: from fishing for populations to testing hypotheses in population genetics

Hirschfeld, Maximilian, Dudgeon, Christine, Sheaves, Marcus, and Barnett, Adam (2021) Barriers in a sea of elasmobranchs: from fishing for populations to testing hypotheses in population genetics. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 30 (11). pp. 2147-2163.

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Background: The interplay of animal dispersal and environmental heterogeneity is fundamental for the distribution of biodiversity on earth. In the ocean, the interaction of physical barriers and dispersal has primarily been examined for organisms with planktonic larvae. Animals that lack a planktonic life stage and depend on active dispersal are however likely to produce distinctive patterns.

Methods: We used available literature on population genetics and phylogeography of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) to examine how marine barriers and dispersal ecology shape genetic connectivity in animals with active dispersal. We provide a global geographical overview of barriers extracted from the literature and synthesize the geographical and hydrological factors, spatial and temporal scales to characterize different types of barriers. The three most studied barriers were used to analyse the effect of elasmobranch dispersal potential and barrier type on genetic connectivity.

Results: We characterized nine broad types of marine barriers, with the three most common barriers being related to ocean bathymetry. The maximum depth of occurrence, maximum body size and habitat of each species were used as proxies for dispersal potential, and were important predictors of genetic connectivity with varying effect depending on barrier type. Environmental tolerance and reproductive behaviour may also play a crucial role in population connectivity in animals with active dispersal. However, we find that studies commonly lack appropriate study designs based on a priori hypotheses to test the effect of physical barriers while accounting for animal behaviour.

Main conclusions: Our synthesis highlights the relative contribution of different barrier types in shaping elasmobranch populations. We provide a new perspective on how barriers and dispersal ecology interact to rearrange genetic variation of marine animals with active dispersal. We illustrate methodological sources that can bias the detection of barriers and provide potential solutions for future research in the field.

Item ID: 69870
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1466-8238
Keywords: dispersal ecology, elasmobranchs, marine barriers, population connectivity, population genetics, rays, sharks
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Copyright Information: © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Additional Information:

A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Hirschfeld, Maximilian (2021) Population structure and connectivity of demersal sharks in isolation. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2021 23:06
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310402 Biogeography and phylogeography @ 35%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 35%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310307 Population ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 50%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 50%
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