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Tooth row counts, vicariance, and the distribution of the sand tiger shark Carcharias taurus

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Geographic variation in tooth row counts among sand tiger sharks Carcharias taurus (Chondrichthyes), from the SW Atlantic, NW Atlantic and the East China Sea is analyzed in this paper. We found significant differences between sand tigers from the SW Atlantic (Southern Hemisphere population) and each of the other two (Northern Hemisphere) regions in the number of upper lateral tooth rows, and between individuals from the SW Atlantic and the East China Sea in the total number of upper tooth rows. Sand tiger sharks from the two Northern Hemisphere populations did not differ in any of the studied variables. Our results agree with comparisons of vertebral counts between sand tiger sharks from Southern and Northern Hemispheres. Both lines of evidence suggest that Southern and Northern Hemisphere populations of C. taurus were isolated to a larger extent than populations of the Northern Hemisphere. The fossil record of the genus Carcharias begins in the Early Cretaceous and C. taurus is certainly known since the Late Miocene. During the Miocene, the Tethys Sea separating northern and southern land masses was still present and it provided a continuous temperate shallow sea that could allow dispersal of sand tiger sharks along Northern Hemisphere seas. Independent observations on the distribution and evolutionary history of the genera Myripristis, Neoniphon, Sargocentron and Aphanius, and genetic studies on the temperate shark genus Mustelus that indicate a close relationship between the Indo-Pacific M. manazo and the Mediterranean M. asterias suggest that this hypothesis is plausible and deserves to be tested.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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