In an era of accelerated biodiversity loss and limited conservation resources, systematic prioritization of species and places is essential. In terrestrial vertebrates, evolutionary distinctness has been used to identify species and locations that embody the greatest share of evolutionary history. We estimate evolutionary distinctness for a large marine vertebrate radiation on a dated taxon-complete tree for all 1,192 chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, rays and chimaeras) by augmenting a new 610-species molecular phylogeny using taxonomic constraints. Chondrichthyans are by far the most evolutionarily distinct of all major radiations of jawed vertebrates—the average species embodies 26 million years of unique evolutionary history. With this metric, we identify 21 countries with the highest richness, endemism and evolutionary distinctness of threatened species as targets for conservation prioritization. On average, threatened chondrichthyans are more evolutionarily distinct—further motivating improved conservation, fisheries management and trade regulation to avoid significant pruning of the chondrichthyan tree of life.
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We are grateful to A. J. Aberer for useful discussion of rogue taxon exclusion, D. Ebert and W. White for taxonomic guidance, G. J. P. Naylor, X. Vélez-Zauzo, A. Godknecht, M. Gollock, H. Koldewey and M. D’Angelo for research support, and B. Corrie and M. Siegert for computing access. We thank all IUCN Shark Specialist Group members and all additional experts who have contributed data and their expertise to IUCN Red List assessments. This work was carried out at the Interdisciplinary Research in Mathematics and Computer Sciences Centre, Simon Fraser University (http://www.irmacs.sfu.ca), the Swiss Shark Foundation computing cluster and Compute Canada’s Westgrid computing network. This study was funded by Save Our Seas Foundation, Rufford Foundation, Zoological Society London, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Discovery and Accelerator Awards, and Canada Research Chairs Program. Shark and ray silhouettes in Figs. 1, 2 and 4 were created by C.G.M from images by R. Aidan Martin; all silhouettes in Fig. 3 were created by M. Dando.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Supplementary results and tables
Master taxonomy dataset
Fossil calibration dataset
Mixed clade and tree modification dataset
Vertebrate comparison dataset
Recently described species dataset
Species addition R script
Polytomy resolver R script
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Stein, R.W., Mull, C.G., Kuhn, T.S. et al. Global priorities for conserving the evolutionary history of sharks, rays and chimaeras. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 288–298 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0448-4
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