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Title: Population genomics and spatial planning for the conservation of the endangered common skate species complex
Author: Frost, Michelle B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 2103
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2017
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Defining the stock boundaries and level of connectivity between elasmobranch populations has remained challenging due to a lack of baseline knowledge on most chondrichthyans and the intrinsic difficulties of studying large, mobile species in the marine environment. However, recent advances in molecular genetic techniques have had a profound impact on the assessment of vulnerable populations and is providing new insight into the life-history characteristics of these non-model species. This thesis uses newly developed focal microsatellite markers and next-generation sequencing to investigate the population structure, genetic diversity, effective number of breeders and estimate the degree of relatedness in two critically endangered elasmobranchs, the flapper skate (Dipturus cf. intermedia) and blue skate (D. cf. flossada), that are part of the cryptic common skate species complex (D. batis). Interspecific differences in their geographic distribution and environmental temperatures in the NE Atlantic are also explored. Microsatellite markers and a panel of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) revealed extensive gene flow between coastal flapper skate populations in the British Isles, but putatively adaptive SNP loci revealed significant differentiation between populations at the furthest bounds of their current distribution. Blue skates also displayed a high level of coastal connectivity, but inshore populations were significantly diverged from offshore skates separated by a deep sea trench; however, selective pressures may have contributed to adaptive differentiation in northern blue skates. Despite high levels of exploitation through targeted fisheries and bycatch, both species have maintained a high level of genetic diversity and effective number of breeders in most populations in the NE Atlantic. A high degree of pairwise relatedness was found in both species, and their geographic distributions were far more extensive and overlapping than expected, but there was evidence of different environmental temperature limitations between species. These results have implications for the spatial management and conservation of these endangered species.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland ; Scottish Natural Heritage ; Natural Environment Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Skates (Fishes) ; Metagenomics ; Marine resources conservation