Demographic inferences after a range expansion can be biased: the test case of the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Pierpaolo Maisano DelserStefano Mona


The evolutionary history of species is a dynamic process as they modify, expand, and contract their spatial distributions over time. Range expansions (REs) occur through a series of founder events that are followed by migration among neighboring demes. The process usually results in structured metapopulations and leaves a distinct signature in the genetic variability of species. Explicitly modeling the consequences of complex demographic events such as REs is computationally very intensive. Here we propose an an alternative approach that requires less computational effort than a comprehensive RE model, but that can recover the demography of species undergoing a RE, by combining spatially explicit modelling with simplified but realistic metapopulation models. We examine the demographic and colonization history of Carcharhinus melanopterus, an abundant reef-associated shark, as a test case. We first used a population genomics approach to statistically confirm the occurrence of a RE in C. melanopterus, and identify its origin in the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Spatial genetic modelling identified two waves of stepping-stone colonization: an eastward wave moving through the Pacific and a westward one moving through the Indian Ocea...Continue Reading


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