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Coalescent times, life history traits and conservation concerns: an example from four shark species from the Indo-Pacific
  • Pierre Lesturgie,
  • Serge Planes,
  • Stefano Mona
Pierre Lesturgie
Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle
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Serge Planes
Université de Perpignan
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Stefano Mona
Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Dispersal abilities play a crucial role in shaping the extent of population genetic structure, with more mobile species being panmictic over large geographic ranges and less mobile ones organized in meta-populations exchanging migrants to different degrees. In turn, population structure directly influences the coalescent pattern of the sampled lineages, but the consequences on the estimated variation of the effective population size (Ne) over time obtained by means of unstructured demographic models remain poorly understood. However, this knowledge is crucial for biologically interpreting the observed Ne trajectory and further devising conservation strategies in endangered species. Here we investigated the demographic history of four shark species (Carharhinus melanopterus, Carharhinus limbatus, Carharhinus amblyrhynchos, Galeocerdo cuvier) with different degrees of endangered status and life history traits related to dispersal distributed in the Indo-Pacific and sampled off New Caledonia. We compared several evolutionary scenarios representing both structured (meta-population) and unstructured models and then inferred the Ne variation through time. By performing extensive coalescent simulations, we provided a general framework relating the underlying population structure and the observed Ne dynamics. On this basis, we concluded that the recent decline observed in three out of the four considered species when assuming unstructured demographic models can be explained by the presence of population structure. Furthermore, we also demonstrated the limits of the inferences based on the sole site frequency spectrum and warn that statistics based on linkage disequilibrium will be needed to exclude recent demographic events affecting meta-populations.