Low mutation rate in epaulette sharks is consistent with a slow rate of evolution in sharks

Nat Commun. 2023 Oct 19;14(1):6628. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-42238-x.


Sharks occupy diverse ecological niches and play critical roles in marine ecosystems, often acting as apex predators. They are considered a slow-evolving lineage and have been suggested to exhibit exceptionally low cancer rates. These two features could be explained by a low nuclear mutation rate. Here, we provide a direct estimate of the nuclear mutation rate in the epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum). We generate a high-quality reference genome, and resequence the whole genomes of parents and nine offspring to detect de novo mutations. Using stringent criteria, we estimate a mutation rate of 7×10-10 per base pair, per generation. This represents one of the lowest directly estimated mutation rates for any vertebrate clade, indicating that this basal vertebrate group is indeed a slowly evolving lineage whose ability to restore genetic diversity following a sustained population bottleneck may be hampered by a low mutation rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Mutation Rate*
  • Sharks* / genetics