Deep mitochondrial lineage divergence among populations of the southern stingray (Hypanus americanus (Hildebrand & Schroeder, 1928)) throughout the Southeastern United States and Caribbean

  • Vincent P. RichardsEmail author
  • Melissa B. DeBiasse
  • Mahmood Shivji
Original Paper


Although over half of all known elasmobranchs are batoids, with many species exploited and several of conservation concern, little is known of their population genetic structure and micro-evolutionary history. Here, we used sequence variation in 648 bp of the mitochondrial control region to study the phylogeography of the southern stingray (Hypanus americanus (Hildebrand & Schroeder, 1928)) (previously Dasyatis americana) throughout the Carolinas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Out of 267 individuals sampled from eight locations, 67 haplotypes were identified and analysis of molecular variance revealed a high level of genetic partitioning (ΦST = 0.49; P < 0.00001) that was delineated into three geographic regions: (i) the USA and Belize, (ii) the Bahamas and the West Indies, and (iii) Grand Cayman Islands. Phylogenetic and statistical parsimony analyses identified three divergent lineages that were largely concordant with the population structure. However, the geographic distribution of haplotypes described a complex phylogeographic pattern with numerous haplotypes from the divergent lineages co-occurring at the same sampling site. The strong genetic partitioning detected for the Grand Cayman population suggests that this small and isolated population might warrant individualized conservation management.


Batoid Elasmobranch Population structure Conservation Control region 



We thank Dan Abel, Demian Chapman, Mark Corcoran, Brian DeAngelis, Jim Gelsleichter, Samuel Gruber, Alan Henningsen, Matt Potenski, Brad Wetherbee, and Tonya Wiley for collecting the samples and Steve Kish, Veronica Akle, Beth Babcock, Kevin Feldheim, Marcy Henning, Stephen Harrison, Scott Pikitch, Burr Heneman, and the staff of the WCS research facility at Glovers Reef, Belize, for the assistance in the field and laboratory. We thank Joseph Ryan for providing computation resources for portions of the analyses.


This research was supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, NOAA Coastal Ocean Program, Nova Southeastern University National Coral Reef Institute, and the Pew Institute for Ocean Science.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies were obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgements, if applicable.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent P. Richards
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Melissa B. DeBiasse
    • 3
  • Mahmood Shivji
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, College of ScienceClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Guy Harvey Research InstituteNova Southeastern UniversityDania BeachUSA
  3. 3.Whitney Laboratory for Marine BioscienceUniversity of FloridaSt. AugustineUSA

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