HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Second Advisor

Brad Wetherbee

Third Advisor

George Duncan


The dusky shark, Carcharinus obscurus, is a globally distributed, coastal-pelagic species subject to an apparent high level of exploitation. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists this species as “Vulnerable” globally, and “Endangered” within western North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters due to an over 80% decline in this region, with no evidence of population recovery. The extensive exploitation of dusky sharks may partly be attributed to the high market value of its fins, but the contribution of individual dusky shark stocks to the fin markets is unknown. This knowledge would be helpful to detect if specific stocks are experiencing disproportionate levels of exploitation. Due to its susceptibility to overfishing, current dire conservation status and need for additional information on its population dynamics, we analyzed the genetic population structure and genetic diversity of the dusky shark (n = 415) across 8 globally distributed locations utilizing 10 nuclear microsatellite loci. The nuclear marker analyses support and extend previously published mitochondrial marker work, identifying a strong divergence among Atlantic and Indo-Pacific samples. Furthermore, nuclear marker results indicate the presence of six genetically discrete management units for dusky sharks, with significant genetic differentiation between the western North Atlantic, South African, and each of three Australian site collections (N, E and W coasts). Discovery of these nuclear microsatellite-defined, smaller geographic scale management units provides a basis for the assignment of market-derived fins to their population of origin with the use of genetic assignment techniques.

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