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Genetic Characterisation Of The Spiny Dogfish Squalus Acanthias In The Adriatic Sea: Evidence For High Genetic Diversity And An Atlantic–South Pacific Origin

Romana Gracan, Bojan Lazar, Sara Zupan, Elena Bužan

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Spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias is a widely distributed, highly migratory mesopredatory shark that is extremely sensitive to overexploitation. Because of unregulated targeted and incidental capture and a lack of enforceable management in the Mediterranean Sea, the spiny dogfish subpopulation has declined by at least 50% in the Mediterranean Sea over the past 75–105 years, and is regionally classified as endangered. In this study we sampled 124 spiny dogfish in the northern-most part of the Mediterranean (i.e. the Adriatic Sea) to: (1) assess levels of genetic diversity using 13 microsatellite loci and mitochondrial (mt)DNA (NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) gene); and (2) infer its evolutionary placement while assessing further possible genetic divergence across the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins based on ND2. Analysis of mtDNA revealed 12 unique haplotypes and a high level of genetic variation in the Mediterranean region, whereas results from microsatellite markers showed significant genetic heterogeneity and a fine-scale stock structuring involving both sexes. The findings support an Atlantic–South Pacific origin for the spiny dogfish in the Adriatic Sea, with little or no present-day connectivity with the Atlantic population. Consequently, this commercially exploited and regionally endangered coastal shark in the Adriatic Sea should be considered as a separate management unit, with implementation of regional protective management plans.