Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 125–144 | Cite as

Effects of species biology on the historical demography of sharks and their implications for likely consequences of contemporary climate change

  • Shannon M. O’BrienEmail author
  • Vincent F. Gallucci
  • Lorenz Hauser
Research Article


Climate variation is an important factor shaping the demographic histories of many marine species, though impacts likely differ depending on species life history, habitat preferences and ecology. Investigating how species responded to historic climate fluctuations may provide critical insights into a species’ response to current climate change. Despite their ecological diversity, shark species share many similar life history characteristics and may be especially vulnerable to anthropogenic and climate impacts. We compared patterns of genetic variability, mismatch distributions and demographic reconstructions from coalescence approaches among temperate and tropical shark species with differing ecological characteristics, to investigate the effect of the past glaciation cycles on population abundance. Genetic diversity at two mitochondrial DNA regions (ND2 and control region) was assayed in four North Pacific species, Pacific spiny dogfish, Pacific sleeper sharks, salmon shark, and bluntnose sixgill shark. In addition, control region sequences acquired from GenBank for five shark species [tope shark (California/Australia), white shark (California), blacktip shark (eastern and western Gulf of Mexico), lemon shark (Bahamas), and whale shark] were analyzed. General patterns in genetic diversity, mismatch analyses and Bayesian skyline plots supported our hypothesis that species biology affected the impact of climate variation on demographic history. Consequently, our results suggest that effects of contemporary climate change on sharks may be to some degree predictable from species biology, distribution, habitat and the impact of past climate events.


Chondrichthyes Bayesian demographic reconstruction Mismatch analysis Mitochondrial DNA Climate change 



This project was supported by a Graduate Student Award from the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), by the H. Mason Keeler Endowment for Excellence scholarship awarded through the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA and by a grant from the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC). We thank W Stewart Grant (Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game) for critical comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript and many people, who collected and provided samples for this research, including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Alaska Fishery Science Center and National Marine Fisheries Service at-sea Observers, Peter Smith, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand, and Fausto Tinti, University of Bologna, Italy.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 200 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon M. O’Brien
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vincent F. Gallucci
    • 1
  • Lorenz Hauser
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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