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Population genetics of the endangered Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania


Weltz, K and Lyle, JM and Semmens, JM and Ovenden, JR, Population genetics of the endangered Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania, Conservation Genetics, 19, (6) pp. 1505-1512. ISSN 1566-0621 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Springer Nature B.V. 2018

DOI: doi:10.1007/s10592-018-1117-0


The Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) has only been recorded in two remote and isolated estuaries on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia. While the population status in one of these estuaries (Bathurst Harbour) is uncertain, it is likely that Macquarie Harbour now represents the sole remaining habitat for this species. Environmental conditions, in particular dissolved oxygen levels and benthic biodiversity, in Macquarie Harbour have deteriorated in recent years, impacted by increased nutrient inputs from an expanding salmonid aquaculture industry. These environmental changes are believed to pose a threat to the persistence of the Maugean skate. In assessing the risks for this rare and range-restricted species, it is vital to consider genetic information when developing management strategies. Both mitochondrial and microsatellite markers showed that the species has low genetic diversity; with no detectable genetic diversity in over 3000 base pairs surveyed from the mitochondrial genome, low average microsatellite heterozygosity (0.35 0.11), a low average number of alleles per locus (2.1 0.4) across eight microsatellite loci and no overall population structure within the microsatellite loci (Fst = − 0.002, p = 0.718 0.012). There was also evidence of a recent bottleneck or founder event, which may explain the low observed genetic diversity. While the species may have existed with low genetic diversity for many generations, the results of this study represent a flag for conservation concern for the Maugean skate. Given that Macquarie Harbour may be its last remaining habitat, any threats to the species resulting in local extinction could equate to global loss of this unique skate species.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Maugean skate, endangered elasmobranch, genetic diversity, conservation, extinction risk
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Fish physiology and genetics
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - wild caught
Objective Field:Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Weltz, K (Miss Kay Weltz)
UTAS Author:Lyle, JM (Associate Professor Jeremy Lyle)
UTAS Author:Semmens, JM (Professor Jayson Semmens)
ID Code:129045
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2018-11-06
Last Modified:2019-02-15

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