Inferring contemporary and historical genetic connectivity from juveniles

Measuring population connectivity is a critical task in conservation biology. While genetic markers can provide reliable long-term historical estimates of population connectivity, scientists are still limited in their ability to determine contemporary patterns of gene flow, the most practical time frame for management. Here, we tackled this issue by developing a new approach that only requires juvenile sampling at a single time period. To demonstrate the usefulness of our method, we used the Speartooth shark (Glyphis glyphis), a critically endangered species of river sharks found only in tropical northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea. Contemporary adult and juvenile shark movements, estimated with the spatial distribution of kin pairs across and within three river systems, was contrasted with historical long-term connectivity patterns, estimated from mitogenomes and genome-wide SNP data. We found strong support for river fidelity in juveniles with the within-cohort relationship analysis. Male breeding movements were highlighted with the cross-cohort relationship analysis and female reproductive philopatry to the river systems was revealed by the mitogenomic analysis. We show that accounting for juvenile river fidelity and female philopatry is important in population structure analysis and that targeting sampling in nurseries and juveniles aggregation should be included in the genomic toolbox of threatened species management.

Document type: