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McClain C.R.,National Evolutionary Synthesis Center | McClain C.R.,Duke University | Balk M.A.,University of New Mexico | Benfield M.C.,Louisiana State University | And 12 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2015

What are the greatest sizes that the largest marine megafauna obtain? This is a simple question with a difficult and complex answer. Many of the largest-sized species occur in the world's oceans. For many of these, rarity, remoteness, and quite simply the logistics of measuring these giants has made obtaining accurate size measurements difficult. Inaccurate reports of maximum sizes run rampant through the scientific literature and popular media. Moreover, how intraspecific variation in the body sizes of these animals relates to sex, population structure, the environment, and interactions with humans remains underappreciated. Here, we review and analyze body size for 25 ocean giants ranging across the animal kingdom. For each taxon we document body size for the largest known marine species of several clades. We also analyze intraspecific variation and identify the largest known individuals for each species. Where data allows, we analyze spatial and temporal intraspecific size variation. We also provide allometric scaling equations between different size measurements as resources to other researchers. In some cases, the lack of data prevents us from fully examining these topics and instead we specifically highlight these deficiencies and the barriers that exist for data collection. Overall, we found considerable variability in intraspecific size distributions from strongly left- to strongly right-skewed. We provide several allometric equations that allow for estimation of total lengths and weights from more easily obtained measurements. In several cases, we also quantify considerable geographic variation and decreases in size likely attributed to humans. © 2015 McClain et al. Source

Kashiwagi T.,University of Queensland | Maxwell E.A.,Lamar University | Marshall A.D.,Marine Megafauna Foundation | Christensen A.B.,Lamar University
PeerJ | Year: 2015

Sharks and rays are increasingly being identified as high-risk species for extinction, prompting urgent assessments of their local or regional populations. Advanced genetic analyses can contribute relevant information on effective population size and connectivity among populations although acquiring sufficient regional sample sizes can be challenging. DNA is typically amplified from tissue samples which are collected by hand spears with modified biopsy punch tips. This technique is not always popular due mainly to a perception that invasive sampling might harm the rays, change their behaviour, or have a negative impact on tourism. To explore alternative methods, we evaluated the yields and PCR success of DNA template prepared from the manta ray mucus collected underwater and captured and stored on a Whatman FTATM Elute card. The pilot study demonstrated that mucus can be effectively collected underwater using toothbrush. DNA stored on cards was found to be reliable for PCR-based population genetics studies. We successfully amplified mtDNA ND5, nuclear DNA RAG1, and microsatellite loci for all samples and confirmed sequences and genotypes being those of target species. As the yields of DNA with the tested method were low, further improvements are desirable for assays that may require larger amounts of DNA, such as population genomic studies using emerging next-gen sequencing. © 2015 Kashiwagi et al. Source

Austin C.M.,University of Selangor | Tan M.H.,University of Selangor | Lee Y.P.,University of Selangor | Croft L.J.,Malaysian Genome Resource Center Berhad | And 3 more authors.
Mitochondrial DNA | Year: 2016

The complete mitochondrial genome of the parasitic copepod Pandarus rhincodonicus was obtained from a partial genome scan using the HiSeq sequencing system. The Pandarus rhincodonicus mitogenome has 14,480 base pairs (62% A+T content) made up of 12 protein-coding genes, 2 ribosomal subunit genes, 22 transfer RNAs, and a putative 384 bp non-coding AT-rich region. This Pandarus mitogenome sequence is the first for the family Pandaridae, the second for the order Siphonostomatoida and the sixth for the Copepoda. © 2014 Informa UK Ltd. Source

Williams J.L.,James Cook University | Williams J.L.,All Out Africa Research Unit | Pierce S.J.,Marine Megafauna Foundation | Pierce S.J.,All Out Africa Research Unit | And 2 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2015

Five sea turtle species, all globally threatened, are found in southern Mozambican waters. Illegal hunting of foraging turtles, nest raiding and modification of coastal habitat are assumed to affect local sea turtle populations, but a lack of capacity and resource constraints hamper monitoring and compliance activities. Enlisting the recreational SCUBA diving community to report sea turtle sightings is a potential solution for population monitoring. The effectiveness of recreational divers as monitors was tested through the review of 2 approaches: the use of a routine dive logbook with sightings, and data from a dedicated survey. These approaches provided 37 consecutive months of data between 2008 and 2011 from dive sites in Inhambane Province, Mozambique. A total of 317 sightings of loggerhead Caretta caretta, green Chelonia mydas, hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata and unidentified turtle species were reported from 918 dives. While the dedicated survey collected more detailed behavioural data (e.g. response to divers and feeding behaviour), independent logbook records provided a more robust data set for analysis of sighting trends. Useful data on sea turtle species composition, size and distribution were obtained from both approaches, although there were concerns with regard to species identification and size estimates. With refined methodology, particularly the incorporation of photographic verification of species identification, reports from divers can provide cost-effective and useful data for monitoring foraging turtle populations. © The authors 2015. Source

Vignaud T.M.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Maynard J.A.,CNRS Insular Research Center and Environment Observatory | Maynard J.A.,Cornell University | Leblois R.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research | And 7 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2014

This study presents genetic evidence that whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, are comprised of at least two populations that rarely mix and is the first to document a population expansion. Relatively high genetic structure is found when comparing sharks from the Gulf of Mexico with sharks from the Indo-Pacific. If mixing occurs between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, it is not sufficient to counter genetic drift. This suggests whale sharks are not all part of a single global metapopulation. The significant population expansion we found was indicated by both microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA. The expansion may have happened during the Holocene, when tropical species could expand their range due to sea-level rise, eliminating dispersal barriers and increasing plankton productivity. However, the historic trend of population increase may have reversed recently. Declines in genetic diversity are found for 6 consecutive years at Ningaloo Reef in Australia. The declines in genetic diversity being seen now in Australia may be due to commercial-scale harvesting of whale sharks and collision with boats in past decades in other countries in the Indo-Pacific. The study findings have implications for models of population connectivity for whale sharks and advocate for continued focus on effective protection of the world's largest fish at multiple spatial scales. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

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