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Molecular markers: progress and prospects for understanding reproductive ecology in elasmobranchs


  • D. S. Portnoy,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Center for Biosystematics and Biodiversity, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2258, U.S.A.
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  • E. J. Heist

    1. Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center, Southern Illinois University, 1125 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901-6511, U.S.A.
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Application of modern molecular tools is expanding the understanding of elasmobranch reproductive ecology. High-resolution molecular markers provide information at scales ranging from the identification of reproductively isolated populations in sympatry (i.e. cryptic species) to the relationships among parents, offspring and siblings. This avenue of study has not only augmented the current understanding of the reproductive biology of elasmobranchs but has also provided novel insights that could not be obtained through experimental or observational techniques. Sharing of genetic polymorphisms across ocean basins indicates that for some species there may be gene flow on global scales. The presence, however, of morphologically similar but genetically distinct entities in sympatry suggests that reproductive isolation can occur with minimal morphological differentiation. This review discusses the recent findings in elasmobranch reproductive biology like philopatry, hybridization and polyandry while highlighting important molecular and analytical techniques. Furthermore, the review examines gaps in current knowledge and discusses how new technologies may be applied to further the understanding of elasmobranch reproductive ecology.