Master of Science
sharks, elasmobranchs, conservation, DNA, DNA barcoding, eDNA, mtDNA, microsatellites, multiplex PCR, forensics
Elasmobranchs are important members of their community. Many sharks are important apex predators that help maintain the health of their ecosystem. However, shark populations are globally declining. This is partially due to the fact that sharks are highly targeted for their fins, meat, liver oil, teeth, and skin. However, they are also killed from anthropogenic effects such as habitat destruction and pollution. Most shark species have life history characteristics that also make them more vulnerable to overfishing. Sharks are also difficult to study due to their elusive nature and identification issues. That is why molecular tools are increasingly becoming important for studying sharks. This paper discusses four different types of molecular tools: mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, environmental DNA, sequence-based, and PCR-based tools. All of these techniques are currently being used to help study and conserve sharks. These techniques can obtain important ecological information for a given species. The majority of the research has been conducted on species identification. Specifically, you can use these tools to identify a particular species of importance, or to classify the global fin trade, or even to identify species in highly processed samples. Species identification isn’t the only useful information that can be obtained however. Molecular tools can also help us better understand the species composition, stock structure, mating system, or population size of a given area. Molecular tools are still a growing area of research. In the future these techniques will continue to improve, and the information that we can learn will continue to grow. One of the biggest hurdles for this type of research is a lack of communication between geneticists and fishery managers and policy makers. Molecular tools have the potential to help with current and future policy and management. That is why it is important for anyone interested in the conservation of elasmobranchs to have a better understanding of molecular techniques.
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Arianna N. Nixon. 2020. A Shark Conservationists Toolbox: Current DNA Methods and Techniques Aiding in the Conservation of Sharks. Capstone. Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved from NSUWorks, . (4)