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Genetic connectivity study of whale shark populations – Oceanographic

The study found that the ancestors of whale sharks in Panama may have come from distant waters, providing important data for conservation efforts.

The charismatic whale shark, the largest fish on the planet, is found in all tropical oceans. Even though it is a highly migratory species, little is known about how different populations of whale sharks interact with each other. A new study, led by marine biologist Héctor Guzmán, Caitlin Beaver of the US Geological Survey and Edgardo Díaz-Ferguson of the Coiba Science Station and published in Frontiers in Marine Science, now sheds light on the genetic connectivity of whale shark populations .

After collecting tissue samples from 21 solitary sharks swimming around Coiba National Park and the Gulf of Chiriquí Gulf in the Pacific in Panama, the research team set out to conduct genetic analyzes. They found that the genetics of whale sharks were very diverse, while similarities with whale shark populations in the western Indian Ocean, Mexico, the Gulf of California, and the Persian Gulf were recorded. According to the study, “the genetic diversity among the samples was high, with five new haplotypes and nine polymorphic sites identified among the 15 sequences.”

The results of the study suggest that whale sharks travel long distances, while highlighting the genetic diversity and connectivity of populations. Ultimately, this could help conservation measures and suggests that marine corridors could promote conservation measures for the species. Guzman said: “Imagine Qatar: a possible trip of over 27,000 kilometers from Panama for this species. This observed connectivity amazed us, revealing a real political issue for the protection and conservation of whale sharks. It no longer seems a local or regional concern, but a global problem.

Diaz-Ferguson added: “With this publication, we are helping unravel the migration and genetic connectivity patterns of passing whale sharks, demonstrating the importance of the Pacific Panama as a key area for species connectivity. ”

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Photograph courtesy of Unsplash.


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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes

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