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Building the first detailed reference genome for pyjama sharks in South Africa

By January 11, 2024No Comments

The pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) is a keystone species in South African kelp ecosystems, but is vulnerable to fishing and lacks the genomic information needed to assess population health. This project will generate the first high quality reference genome to help understand pyjama shark status and resilience, and contribute towards science-based preservation strategies.

Pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) | Shutterstock

Pyjama sharks (Poroderma africanum) are endemic to South Africa, where they help maintain kelp ecosystem health by preying on kelp-grazing animals. Although fishing bans have been imposed that make it illegal to target them, these sharks are still frequently caught by recreational fishers and as bycatch. They are locally considered “vulnerable”.

Currently, there is no genomic information regarding population diversity or connectivity throughout its range, so managers need better tools for conservation.

For the first time, this project will generate a high quality, detailed reference genome for the pyjama shark. This foundational genetic information will then enable assessments of population structure, evolutionary history, genetic diversity, and local adaptation, which so far have not been possible for this species. With the genomic insights gained from this project, local resource managers will be better equipped to monitor pyjama shark population health and develop informed conservation strategies.

The project is led by Dr. Romina Henriques of the University of Pretoria and Dr. Sara Andreotti of Stellenbosch University.

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Pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) | Shutterstock