A recent global study of whale shark population genetics has allowed for better understanding of genetic connections between aggregations in both the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic. This overview included an aggregation found within the Red Sea near Al Lith, Saudi Arabia, however the Mafia Island, Tanzania, aggregation was not part of the study. The ecological behavior of these aggregations differs with the Saudi Arabian individuals showing strong seasonality, while acoustic telemetry data revealed cryptic residency at Mafia Island. Genetic analysis using 11 microsatellite markers was performed on whale sharks from both locations. A combination of primers sourced from previous studies and newly designed primers were used to compare both aggregations and the individuals within. The Red Sea population was compared between 5 seasons spanning 6 years from 2010–2015. The Tanzanian population was compared for 2 field seasons from 2012–2014. Temporal genetic diversity was examined using allelic richness on only the Saudi Arabian individuals due to a short sampling period in Tanzania. Kinship for both aggregations was tested using COLONY and KINALYZER. Over a 6 year period, genetic diversity in the Red Sea showed no significant change. Contrasting to other whale shark aggregations, allelic richness in the Red Sea shows no sign of reduction. Kinship analysis using COLONY found two potential sibling pairs in Tanzania. One pair had a high probability (.993) of being a full sibling dyad while the other had a lower probability (.357). There were no sibling pairs identified in the Red Sea. The lack of significant change of genetic diversity in Al Lith, Saudi Arabia, differs from a trend at Ningaloo Reef, Australia that showed a decrease in genetic diversity. Although these differences could be driven by location, this should encourage further long term genetic sampling at aggregations to better understand whale shark population trends. The potential of sibling pairs being found within one aggregation warrants further investigation into kinship within and between aggregations throughout the Indo-Pacific.


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