Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UIC biologists use DNA to study migration of threatened whale sharks

09.04.2009
Whale sharks -- giants of the fish world that strike terror only among tiny creatures like the plankton and krill they eat -- are imperiled by over-fishing of the species in parts of its ocean range.

That threat is underscored in a new study from geneticists led by Jennifer Schmidt, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of biological sciences, reported online April 7 in the journal PLoS One.

Schmidt and her colleagues studied the DNA of 68 whale sharks from 11 locations across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean Sea -- an area that covers most of the shark's known range. Results showed little genetic variation between the populations, which indicates migration and interbreeding among far-flung populations of the big fish.

"Our data show that whale sharks found in different oceans are genetically quite similar, which means that animals move and interbreed between populations," said Schmidt. "From a conservation standpoint, it means that whale sharks in protected waters cannot be assumed to stay in those waters, but may move into areas where they may be in danger."

A tropical fish that can grow 50 feet or longer and weigh over 20 tons, a whale shark's range can span oceans. They do not breed until they are about 25 to 30 years old, so it will take a long time for the species to recover from recent population declines.

Whale sharks are listed as threatened, but not every country protects them. The large animals are especially prized by fishermen for meat and fins used in soup.

Little is known about the shark's biology, perhaps because they have been studied primarily near shore, while mature animals may breed and give birth out in the open ocean. Nor is much known about neonatal or juvenile sharks, including where they grow to maturity, or how and when they move between regions. That has made devising effective conservation efforts a problem.

"The only real threat to whale sharks is us," said Schmidt. "To design proper conservation plans, we need to understand the sharks' lifestyle. We can only protect their habitat if we know what habitat they use."

Schmidt credits some countries for closing whale shark fisheries and hopes that efforts such as ecotourism programs, which sometimes include swims with the gentle giants, may prove an attractive economic alternative to fishing.

With the money brought in by well-managed ecotourism programs, Schmidt said, "people in many countries have come to realize that whale sharks are more valuable alive than dead."

The research was funded by UIC and the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, N.J.

Other authors of the report include Marie Levine, executive director of the Shark Research Institute; Mary Ashley, professor of biological sciences at UIC; and Kevin Feldheim, director of the Pritzker Laboratory at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Paul Francuch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uic.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multifunctional Platform for the Delivery of Gene Therapeutics
22.01.2018 | Angewandte Chemie International Edition

nachricht Charge Order and Electron Localization in a Molecule-Based Solid
22.01.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The world's most powerful acoustic tractor beam could pave the way for levitating humans

22.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Siberian scientists learned how to reduce harmful emissions from HPPs

22.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Combination of Resistance Genes Offers Better Protection for Wheat against Powdery Mildew

22.01.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>