Small localized breeding populations in a widely distributed coastal shark species

B. D. Postaire, K. A. Feldheim, G. M. Clementi, J. Quinlan, M. P.M. van Zinnicq Bergmann, E. J. Brooks, R. D. Grubbs, T. L. Guttridge, A. C. Henderson, R. Tavares, D. D. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Identifying the geographical scale at which natural populations structure themselves is essential for conservation. One way to gauge this structure is by estimating local effective population size (Ne) and the associated measure of effective number of breeders (Nb), as the smaller and more isolated natural populations are, the smaller Ne and Nb they will present. However, as Ne and Nb are greatly influenced by demographic events and by both species’ behavior and biology, assessing the effectiveness of sample design is necessary to ensure the reliability of said estimates. Here, we first test the sample size effect on yearly Nb and generational Ne estimates from a lemon shark Negaprion brevirostris nursery in Bimini (The Bahamas) and subsequently compare these parameters to estimates of the minimal number of breeders based on pedigree reconstruction. We found that yearly estimates of Nb are positively correlated to annual variations in number of breeders estimated via pedigree reconstructions. Moreover, we measured that 30 individuals from a single cohort were sufficient to obtain reliable yearly estimates of Nb in Bimini’s lemon sharks. We then estimated generational Ne in 10 lemon shark nurseries across the Western Atlantic. Almost every nursery sampled represents an independent population on a generational time scale, with Ne rarely higher than 100 individuals. Our study reveals strong local population structure in lemon sharks, and thus their exposure to localized depletion or extirpation, suggesting that studies of coastal shark nursery areas could routinely estimate Ne and Nb to obtain management-relevant information on adult populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Conservation
  • Effective number of breeders
  • Negaprion brevirostris
  • Nursery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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