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Genetic and reproductive evidence for two species of ornate wobbegong shark Orectolobus spp. on the Australian east coast

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This study reports on evidence for reproductive isolation among Orectolobus ornatus and Orectolobus halei, two previously cryptic and recently redescribed species of wobbegong shark (Orectolobiformes: Orectolobidae) from the east coast of Australia. The evidence is based on disparity in size at sexual maturity, diagnostic nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variants, and marked phylogenetic divergence. Plots of total length (LT) and maturity for the two species were non-overlapping and illustrative of statistically significant size dimorphism. Genetic analyses and phylogenetic reconstruction did not provide indication of hybridization between O. ornatus and O. halei. In fact, sequence divergence between them was higher than in comparisons with another congeneric and largely co-distributed wobbegong species (Orectolobus maculatus). The assumption of a molecular clock revealed that the two species have evolved in isolation for c. 3ยท9 million years. These results challenge a paradigm often mentioned in the biodiversity literature that most cryptic species are the product of recent speciation events and will contribute to the development of effective management strategies for wobbegong sharks.

Keywords: conservation; elasmobranch; phylogeography; reproductive isolation; taxonomy

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia 2: Molecular Ecology Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2008


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