Exploring the genetic diversity and population structure of Mobula birostris in two key aggregation zones in the Eastern Tropical Pacific

Fig. 1. Mobula birostris sample collection sites off mainland Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands. Green dots: collection sites; number of samples is displayed next to each dot. This map was drawn using ArcGIS Desktop v.10 (ESRI 2020)



 The giant manta ray Mobula birostris is the largest ray species in the world. Little is known about its genetic composition in key aggregation sites such as the Galapagos Islands and Isla de la Plata, near the province of Manabi in mainland Ecuador. This study aimed to determine the genetic diversity and population structure of M. birostris in these 2 locations to better understand its connectivity and distribution in Ecuadorian oceanic waters and to assist in its conservation and appropriate management. A total of 127 samples from mainland Ecuador (2013−2018) and 21 samples from Galapagos (2019) were collected and analyzed using 8 microsatellite loci. Results showed a moderately high level of genetic diversity for giant manta rays from both sites (mainland Ecuador He = 0.72; Galapagos He = 0.66). Population structure analyses suggests the presence of 2 different populations in the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador. The different genetic compositions found for each location could be associated with the displayed resident behavior, linked to the formation of upwelling systems caused by oceanic currents that bring nutrient-rich waters to both sites year-round. Our genetic connectivity analysis confirmed low gene flow between these 2 locations, further rejecting the hypothesis of a single panmictic population of M. birostris in Ecuador. Taken together, these results provide valuable information about the genetic composition and diversity of the giant manta ray, an Endangered species which has been scarcely studied in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Keywords: Genetic variability · Population structure · Conservation · Residency patterns · Ecuador · Mobula birostris 

Read the article in the link: www.int-res.com/articles/meps_oa/m699p075.pdf  

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!