New great white shark study has conservation implications

A new study spearheaded by a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher that indicates male great white sharks roam Earths oceans much more widely than females has implications for future conservation strategies for the storied and threatened fish.

Assistant Professor Andrew Martin of CU-Boulders environmental, population and organismic biology department said the research team studied differences in two types of DNA collected from tissue samples of 95 male and female great white sharks. The team concluded that while males disperse widely across ocean basins, females tend to stay in a particular region, perhaps returning to their birth site to reproduce.

Great whites are globally distributed in temperate waters and have been observed in nearly every ocean and sea on the planet. In the study, the researchers compared the genetics of great white sharks from the Australia-New Zealand region and South African coastal zones -- two areas with the greatest abundance of the species.

"These are very rare fish because they are perched at the top of the food chain and because they have been fished very heavily," said Martin. "The nice thing about this study is that we were able to overlay genetic differences on the oceanic geography."

A paper on the subject is being published in the July 12 issue of the weekly science journal, Nature. Co-authors included researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the University of Southern Mississippi, the CSIRO Marine Research Laboratories in Australia, the Natal Sharks Board of South Africa, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand.

The researchers looked at both mitochondrial DNA which is passed down only by the female of the species and particular genes from the cell nucleus passed on by both parents. The mitochondrial results indicated the "female-mediated " gene flow of great whites between differ

Contact: Andrew Martin
University of Colorado at Boulder

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