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Keywords:

  • Australian blacktip shark;
  • common blacktip shark;
  • graceful shark;
  • mitochondrial DNA ND4 region

Abstract

Tropical Australian shark fisheries target two morphologically indistinguishable blacktip sharks, the Australian blacktip (Carcharhinus tilstoni) and the common blacktip (C. limbatus). Their relative contributions to northern and eastern Australian coastal fisheries are unclear because of species identification difficulties. The two species differ in their number of precaudal vertebrae, which is difficult and time consuming to obtain in the field. But, the two species can be distinguished genetically with diagnostic mutations in their mitochondrial DNA ND4 gene. A third closely related sister species, the graceful shark C. amblyrhynchoides, can also be distinguished by species-specific mutations in this gene. DNA sequencing is an effective diagnostic tool, but is relatively expensive and time consuming. In contrast, real-time high-resolution melt (HRM) PCR assays are rapid and relatively inexpensive. These assays amplify regions of DNA with species-specific genetic mutations that result in PCR products with unique melt profiles. A real-time HRM PCR species-diagnostic assay (RT-HRM-PCR) has been developed based on the mtDNA ND4 gene for rapid typing of C. tilstoni, C. limbatus and C. amblyrhynchoides. The assay was developed using ND4 sequences from 66 C. tilstoni, 33. C. limbatus and five C. amblyrhynchoides collected from Indonesia and Australian states and territories; Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. The assay was shown to be 100% accurate on 160 unknown blacktip shark tissue samples by full mtDNA ND4 sequencing.