Spatial versus temporal structure: implications of inter-haul variation and relatedness in the North East Atlantic Spurdog Squalus acanthias

James Thorburn, Rosie Jones, Francis Neat, Cecilia Pinto, Victoria Bendall, Stuart Hetherington, David Mark Bailey, Leslie Noble, Cath Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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1.  Micro-population processes, such as gene flow, operating within geographic regions are often poorly understood despite their potential to impact stock structure and sustainability. This is especially true for highly mobile species, such as elasmobranchs, where the potential for spatial overlap of regional populations is increased due to higher movement capabilities. A lack of information on these processes means management plans rarely consider spatio-temporal structure.
2.  Spurdog (Squalus acanthias) are globally distributed throughout temperate regions yet there is an apparent lack of gene flow between ocean basins. In the North-east Atlantic, there is little work on gene flow within the region which is currently managed as a single stock that is estimated to be at 19% compared to 1905. Some evidence from this region suggests population processes which have the potential to cause structuring.
3.  Population structure of NE Atlantic spurdog was investigated using an 828-bp fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region and seven focal polymorphic microsatellite markers. Samples from 295 individuals from eight locations throughout UK waters were used in this study.
4.  Overall, mitochondrial sequences suggested some regional differentiation. Genetic diversity was comparable with that reported in previous studies of spurdog. Haplotype diversity (0.782 - 1) is amongst the highest observed for an elasmobranch. Microsatellite markers suggested a high level of relatedness was responsible for regional population structuring. There was no apparent spatial structure after removal of ‘full sibling’ relationships.
5.  Inter-haul variation from Celtic Sea samples is suggestive of sub-populations and aggregation events which may have important implications for fisheries conservation of this, and other, elasmobranch species.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
VolumeEarly View
Early online date2 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Aug 2018


  • Coastal
  • Ocean
  • Distribution
  • Fish
  • Fishing
  • Elasmobranch management
  • Genetic structure
  • Relatedness
  • Social interactions


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