Project GenoJaws is a collaborative investigation of global shark populations developed in response to a need for greater understanding of both current and historical populations of tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), grey nurse/sand tiger (Carcharias taurus), mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). The project aims to understand the evolutionary processes that contributed to present-day population genomic structures and more importantly, develop better predictions of adaptive responses in sharks to future environmental challenges.

Project GenoJaws is so named for its application of genetic methods on historical shark material which includes as jaws, bones and teeth. Large collections of jaws and bones from shark species are found in museums and private trophy collections worldwide. They are a highly valuable, relatively untapped resource of DNA for retrospective genetic analysis. While genome-scale screening of historical material is challenging, DNA has been successfully extracted from historical shark material dating back to 1912 [1].

Historical DNA presents a unique opportunity for understanding how species respond to environmental change and allow detailed analysis of population effective size and structure. Data generated from the project will allow temporal comparisons of large numbers of coding genes to provide estimates for effective population size, genetically based adaptation, population connectivity and gene flow between global populations of the shark species included in the study. The outcomes will be useful to inform policy and management efforts.

[1] Nielsen EE et al. (2017) Extracting DNA from ‘jaws’: high yield and quality from archived tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) skeletal material. Molecular Ecology Resources 17, 431-442.