A recent shark radiation: Molecular phylogeny, biogeography and speciation of wobbegong sharks (family: Orectolobidae)

Shannon Corrigan*, Luciano B. Beheregaray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The elasmobranch fish are an ancient, evolutionarily successful, but under-researched vertebrate group, particularly in regard to their recent evolutionary history. Their lineage has survived four mass extinction events and most present day taxa are thought to be derived from Mesozoic forms. Here we present a molecular phylogenetic analysis of the family Orectolobidae that provides evidence for recent events of diversification in this shark group. Species interrelationships in Orectolobidae were reconstructed based on four mitochondrial and nuclear genes. In line with previous morphological work, our results do not support current taxonomic arrangements in Orectolobidae and indicate that a taxonomic revision of the family is warranted. We propose that the onset of diversification of orectolobid sharks is of Miocene age and occurred within the Indo-Australian region. Surprisingly, we also find evidence for a recent (∼last 2 million years) and rapid radiation of wobbegong sharks. Allopatric speciation followed by range expansion seems like the general most likely explanation to account for wobbegong relationships and distributions. We suggest that the evolution of this shark group was mostly influenced by two temporal scenarios of diversification. The oldest relates to major geological changes in the Indo-West Pacific associated with the Miocene collision of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates. The most recent scenario was influenced by changes in oceanography and the emergence of biogeographic barriers related to Pleistocene glacial cycles in Australian waters. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Elasmobranch
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Phylogeography
  • Ribosomal protein S7
  • Taxonomy


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