Conservation Genetics Resources

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 105–113 | Cite as

Genetic tools to support the conservation of the endangered smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata

  • Kevin A. FeldheimEmail author
  • Demian D. Chapman
  • Colin A. Simpfendorfer
  • Vincent P. Richards
  • Mahmood S. Shivji
  • Tonya R. Wiley
  • Gregg R. Poulakis
  • John K. Carlson
  • Rowena Eng
  • Skyler Sagarese
Technical Note


The smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata, is protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) and all forms of international trade of this species are prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Although it is illegal to land or trade P. pectinata within the US or across its borders, it is difficult to enforce these regulations for some sawfish body parts because they resemble legally-traded shark body parts (e.g. dried fins). There is also a growing need for conservation genetics research on this species and its relatives, including assessments of population structure and genetic diversity. Given these pressing trade monitoring and research needs, we developed: (1) a rapid PCR-based test to identify P. pectinata body parts in trade in the US and western Atlantic, (2) a DNA-barcode based on 520 bp of cytochrome b that resolves P. pectinata and five other extant sawfish species and (3) a suite of 11 polymorphic P. pectinata microsatellite markers that can be used in a variety of conservation genetics applications for this and other sawfish species. We anticipate that this suite of genetic tools will contribute to the conservation of this critically endangered species and its relatives by reinforcing landings and trade restrictions and by enabling future conservation genetics research.


Sawfish Microsatellites DNA barcoding Wildlife trade 



This research was funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS award #GA133F08SE4254 to M.S.S., K.A.F. and D.D.C.), the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, the Grainger Foundation, and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. Sawfish tissue samples were obtained under ESA permits #1352 (Mote Marine Laboratory), #1475 (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) and #1538 (NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center). Special thanks to Shelley Norton (NOAA Fisheries Service-Southeast Regional Office) for helping to secure funds, Nicole Phillips for providing tissue samples from other sawfish species, and the Bimini Biological Field Station for Bahamian samples.


  1. Baker CS (2008) A truer measure of the market: the molecular ecology of fisheries and wildlife trade. Mol Ecol 17:3985–3998CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker CS, Palumbi SR (1996) Population structure, molecular systematics, and forensic identification of whales and dolphins. In: Avise JC, Hamrick JL (eds) Conservation genetics: case histories from nature. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 10–49Google Scholar
  3. Bigelow HB, Schroeder WC (1953) Fishes of the Western North Atlantic, Part 2. Sawfishes, Guitarfishes, Skates, Rays, and Chimaeroids. Memoir of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. Yale University, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlson JK, Osbourne J, Schmidt TW (2007) Monitoring the recovery of smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata, using standardized relative indices of abundance. Biol Conserv 136:195–202. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.11.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chapman DD, Abercrombie DL, Pikitch EK, Doudy C, Stanhope M, Shivji MS (2003) A streamlined, bi-organelle, multiplex PCR approach to species identification: global conservation and trade monitoring for the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Conserv Genet 4:415–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clarke SC, Magnussen JE, Abercrombie DL, McAllister M, Shivji MS (2006) Identification of shark species composition and proportion in the Hong Kong shark fin market using molecular genetics and trade records. Conserv Biol 20:201–211. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00247.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cortés E, Brooks E, Apostolaki P, Brown CA (2006) Stock assessment of the dusky shark in the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Panama City Laboratory Contribution 06–05. US Department of Commerce, Panama CityGoogle Scholar
  8. Evett IW, Weir BS (1998) Interpreting DNA evidence: statistical genetics for forensic scientists. Sinauer, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  9. Faria VV (2007) Taxonomic review, phylogeny, and geographical population structure of the sawfishes (Chondrichthyes, Pristiformes). Dissertation, Iowa State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  10. Feldheim KA, Stow AJ, Ahonen H, Chapman DD, Shivji M, Peddemors V, Wintner S (2007) Polymorphic microsatellite markers for studies of the conservation and reproductive genetics of imperilled sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus). Mol Ecol Resour 7:1366–1368. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8286.2007.01888.x Google Scholar
  11. NMFS (2006) National Marine Fisheries Service. SEDAR 11 stock assessment report: Large coastal shark complex, blacktip and sandbar shark. US Department of Commerce, NMFS, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, Silver SpringGoogle Scholar
  12. NMFS (2009) Recovery plan for smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). Prepared by the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver SpringGoogle Scholar
  13. Glenn TC, Schable NA (2005) Isolating microsatellite DNA loci. Methods Enzymol 395:202–222CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Goudet J (2002) FSTAT, a program to estimate and test gene diversities and fixation indices (version Accessed 12 Oct 2009
  15. Hale LF, Carlson JK (2007) Characterization of the shark bottom longline fishery: 2005–2006. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-554. US Department of Commerce, Panama CityGoogle Scholar
  16. Hayes CG, Jiao Y, Cortes E (2009) Stock assessment of scalloped hammerhead sharks in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. N Am J Fish Manag 29:1406–1417. doi: 10.1577/M08-026.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones AG (2005) GERUD 2.0: a computer program for the reconstruction of parental genotypes from half-sib progeny arrays with known or unknown parents. Mol Ecol Resour 5:708–711. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8286.2005.01029.x Google Scholar
  18. Kumar SK, Tamura K, Nei M (2004) MEGA3: an integrated software for molecular evolutionary genetics analysis and sequence alignment. Brief Bioinform 5:150–163CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. McKelvey KS, Schwartz MK (2005) DROPOUT: a program to identify problem loci and samples for noninvasive genetic samples in a capture-mark-recapture framework. Mol Ecol Resour 5:716–718. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8286.2005.01038.x Google Scholar
  20. Michelini E, Cevenini L, Mezzanotte L, Simoni P, Baraldini M, De Laude L, Roda A (2007) One-step triplex-polymerase chain reaction assay for the authentication of yellowfin (Thunnus albacares), bigeye (Thunnus obesus), and skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) tuna DNA from fresh, frozen, and canned tuna samples. J Agric Food Chem 55:7638–7647CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Morgan A, Cooper P, Curtis T, Burgess GH (2009) An overview of the United States East Coast Bottom Longline Shark-Fishery, 1994–2003. Mar Fish Rev 71:23–38Google Scholar
  22. Nicholas KB, Nicholas HB Jr, Deerfield DW II (1997) GeneDoc: analysis and visualization of genetic variation. Embnew News 4:14Google Scholar
  23. Paetkau D, Strobeck C (1994) Microsatellite analysis of genetic variation in black bear populations. Mol Ecol 3:489–495CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Poulakis GR, Seitz JC (2004) Recent occurrence of the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata (Elasmobranchiomorphi: Pristidae), in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys, with comments on sawfish ecology. Fla Sci 67:27–35Google Scholar
  25. Raymond M, Rousset F (1995) GENEPOP V 3.4: population genetics software for exact tests of ecumenicism. J Hered 86:248–249Google Scholar
  26. Schmid TH, Ehrhardt LM, Snelson FF (1988) Notes on the occurrence of rays (Elasmobranchii, Batoidea) in the Indian River Lagoon system, Florida. Fla Sci 51:121–128Google Scholar
  27. Schuelke M (2000) An economic method for the fluorescent labeling of PCR fragments. Nat Biotechnol 18:233–234CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Seitz JC, Poulakis GR (2002) Recent occurrence of sawfishes (Elasmobranchiomorphi: Pristidae) along the southwest coast of Florida (USA). Fla Sci 65:256–266Google Scholar
  29. Seitz JC, Poulakis GR (2006) Anthropogenic effects on the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in the United States. Mar Pollut Bull 52:1533–1540. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2006.07.016 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Shivji MS, Clarke C, Pank M, Natanson L, Kohler N, Stanhope M (2002) Genetic identification of pelagic shark body parts for conservation and trade-monitoring. Cons Biol 16:1036–1047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shivji MS, Chapman DD, Pikitch EK, Raymond PW (2005) Genetic profiling reveals illegal international trade in fins of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Conserv Genet 6:1035–1039. doi: 10.1007/s10592-005-9082-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Simpfendorfer CA (2000) Predicting recovery rates for endangered western Atlantic sawfishes using demographic analysis. Environ Biol Fishes 58:371–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Simpfendorfer CA (2005) Threatened fishes of the world: Pristis pectinata Latham, 1794 (Pristidae). Environ Biol Fishes 73:20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Snelson FF, Williams SE (1981) Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon system, Florida. Estuaries 4:110–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sunnucks P, Hales DF (1996) Numerous transposed sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I-II in aphids of the genus Sitobion (Hemiptera: Aphididae). Mol Biol Evol 13:510–524PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin A. Feldheim
    • 1
    Email author
  • Demian D. Chapman
    • 2
    • 3
  • Colin A. Simpfendorfer
    • 4
  • Vincent P. Richards
    • 5
  • Mahmood S. Shivji
    • 5
  • Tonya R. Wiley
    • 6
  • Gregg R. Poulakis
    • 7
  • John K. Carlson
    • 8
  • Rowena Eng
    • 3
  • Skyler Sagarese
    • 3
  1. 1.Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and EvolutionThe Field MuseumChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Ocean Conservation ScienceStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  4. 4.Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  5. 5.The Guy Harvey Research Institute, Oceanographic CenterNova Southeastern UniversityDania BeachUSA
  6. 6.Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Coastal Fisheries DivisionDickinson Marine LabDickinsonUSA
  7. 7.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research InstituteCharlotte Harbor Field LaboratoryPort CharlotteUSA
  8. 8.NOAA Fisheries ServiceSoutheast Fisheries Science CenterPanama CityUSA

Personalised recommendations