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Pliocene colonization of the Mediterranean by Great White Shark inferred from fossil records, historical jaws, phylogeographic and divergence time analyses
Leone, A.; Puncher, G.N.; Ferretti, F.; Sperone, E.; Tripepi, S.; Micarelli, P.; Gambarelli, A.; Sarà, M.; Arculeo, M.; Doria, G.; Garibaldi, F.; Bressi, N.; Dall'Asta, A.; Minelli, D.; Cilli, E.; Vanni, S.; Serena, F.; Díaz‐Jaimes, P.; Baele, G.; Cariani, A.; Tinti, F. (2020). Pliocene colonization of the Mediterranean by Great White Shark inferred from fossil records, historical jaws, phylogeographic and divergence time analyses. J. Biogeogr. 47(5): 1119-1129.
In: Journal of Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford. ISSN 0305-0270; e-ISSN 1365-2699, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Carcharodon carcharias; divergence time; Great White Shark; historicalDNA; Mediterranean; phylogeography

Authors  Top 
  • Leone, A.
  • Puncher, G.N., more
  • Ferretti, F.
  • Sperone, E.
  • Tripepi, S.
  • Micarelli, P.
  • Gambarelli, A.
  • Sarà, M.
  • Arculeo, M.
  • Doria, G.
  • Garibaldi, F.
  • Bressi, N.
  • Dall'Asta, A.
  • Minelli, D.
  • Cilli, E.
  • Vanni, S.
  • Serena, F.
  • Díaz-Jaimes, P.
  • Baele, G., more
  • Cariani, A., more
  • Tinti, F., more


    Determine the evolutionary origin of the heretofore poorly characterized contemporary Great White Shark (GWS; Carcharodon carcharias) of the Mediterranean Sea, using phylogenetic and dispersal vicariance analyses to trace back its global palaeo‐migration pattern.


    Mediterranean Sea.


    Carcharodon carcharias.


    We have built the largest mitochondrial DNA control region (CR) sequence dataset for the Mediterranean GWS from referenced historical jaws spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. Mediterranean and global GWS CR sequences were analysed for genetic diversity, phylogenetic relationships and divergence time. A Bayes factor approach was used to assess two scenarios of GWS lineage divergence and emergence of the Mediterranean GWS line using fossil records and palaeo‐geographical events for calibration of the molecular clock.


    The results confirmed a closer evolutionary relationship between Mediterranean GWS and populations from Australia–New Zealand and the North‐eastern Pacific coast rather than populations from South African and North‐western Atlantic. The Mediterranean GWS lineage showed the lowest genetic diversity at the global level, indicating its recent evolutionary origin. An evaluation of various divergence scenarios determined the Mediterranean GWS lineage most likely appeared some 3.23 million years ago by way dispersal/vicariance from Australian/Pacific palaeo‐populations.

    Main conclusion

    Based on the fossil records, phylogeographic patterns and divergence time, we revealed that the Mediterranean GWS population originated in the Pliocene following the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Colonization of the Mediterranean by GWS likely occurred via an eastward palaeo‐migration of Australian/eastern Pacific elements through the Central American Seaway, before the complete closure of the Isthmus of Panama. This Pliocene origin scenario contrasts with a previously proposed scenario in which Australian GWS colonized the Mediterranean via antipodean northward migration resulting from navigational errors from South Africa during Quaternary climatic oscillations.

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