Mitochondrial haplotypes reveal low diversity and restricted connectivity of the critically endangered batoid population in a Marine Protected Area
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Stability and long-term persistence of a species rely heavily on its genetic diversity, which is closely allied to its capacity for adaptation. In threatened species, population connectivity can play a major role in maintaining that diversity, and genetic assessments of their populations can be crucial for the design of effective spatial conservation management. Not only is it worth evaluating the amount of diversity in a candidate population for protection, but the magnitude of outgoing gene flow can provide insight into its potential to replenish others via emigrants. The critically endangered flapper skate Dipturus intermedius receives protection in the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Scotland. However, there is insufficient knowledge of genetic diversity and connectivity across its range. Recent tagging studies in the MPA suggest the presence of animals with high levels of site fidelity and residency, as well as transient individuals, raising concerns of limited connectivity to populations beyond the MPA. In this study, a newly developed mitochondrial haplotype marker allowed use of DNA sourced from fin clips, mucus and egg cases to investigate population structure and mitochondrial variability across several sites around the British Isles, including the MPA. Unfortunately, results characterized the MPA as having particularly low haplotype diversity and significant population differentiation from other sample sites. More than a quarter of its individuals carry a haplotype rarely observed elsewhere, leaving outgoing gene flow questionable. The MPA appears unlikely to sustain the species’ existing mtDNA genetic diversity or act as an effective source population.
Schwanck , TN , Vizer , LF , Thorburn , J , Dodd , J , Wright , PJ , Donnan , DW , Noble , LR & Jones , CS 2023 , ' Mitochondrial haplotypes reveal low diversity and restricted connectivity of the critically endangered batoid population in a Marine Protected Area ' , Marine Ecology Progress Series , vol. Advance view . https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14242
Marine Ecology Progress Series
Copyright © The authors 2023. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are un - restricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.
DescriptionFunding: This study was supported by NatureScot, Scottish Government project SP02B, a Heredity Fieldwork Grant of the Genetics Society, and Save Our Seas Foundation projects SOSF 470 and 560.
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