• contemporary gene flow;
  • dispersal potential;
  • elasmobranch;
  • historical biogeography;
  • philopatry


The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, is a large, cosmopolitan, coastal species. Females are thought to show philopatry to nursery grounds while males potentially migrate long distances, creating an opportunity for male-mediated gene flow that may lead to discordance in patterns revealed by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear markers. While this dynamic has been investigated in elasmobranchs over small spatial scales, it has not been examined at a global level. We examined patterns of historical phylogeography and contemporary gene flow by genotyping 329 individuals from nine locations throughout the species’ range at eight nuclear microsatellite markers and sequencing the complete mtDNA control region. Pairwise comparisons often resulted in fixation indices and divergence estimates of greater magnitude using mtDNA sequence data than microsatellite data. In addition, multiple methods of estimation suggested fewer populations based on microsatellite loci than on mtDNA sequence data. Coalescent analyses suggest divergence and restricted migration among Hawaii, Taiwan, eastern and western Australia using mtDNA sequence data and no divergence and high migration rates, between Taiwan and both Australian sites using microsatellite data. Evidence of secondary contact was detected between several localities and appears to be discreet in time rather than continuous. Collectively, these data suggest complex spatial/temporal relationships between shark populations that may feature pulses of female dispersal and more continuous male-mediated gene flow.