Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Heist, Edward


The nurse shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum, is a sedentary shark species that inhabits coral reefs in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean and along the western coast of the Americas in the Pacific Ocean. Nurse shark tissue samples were collected from the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, and Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. 186 individuals were genotyped at 11 microsatellite loci, the control region of the mitochondrial genome was sequenced in 190 individuals, and 89 individuals from the Bahamas, Belize, and Dry Tortugas were genotyped at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class IIα locus. An analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) for the microsatellite loci indicated significant subdivision only between the Bahamas and Dry Tortugas populations. An AMOVA for the mitochondrial control region sequences indicated significant subdivision between all population pairs. The AMOVA for MHC class IIα locus indicated significant subdivision between two population pairs: the Bahamas population and the Dry Tortugas population and the Belize population and the Dry Tortugas population. The nurse shark has the lowest mitochondrial DNA nucleotide diversity (π=0.0125%) and haplotype diversity (h=0.2402) of any shark species to date. There were 14 MHC alleles from 39 polymorphic sites; ten were the same as published alleles (Kasahara et al. 1993; Ohta et al. 2000). This study was the first study to use MHC class IIα genes as a marker for population genetics in sharks. Our results showed that MHC class IIα locus behaves as a diploid locus and is a powerful tool for determining population genetic structure between populations.




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