Population structure of North Atlantic and North Pacific sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) inferred from mitochondrial control region DNA sequences and microsatellite genotypes

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  • Léonie A.E. Huijser
  • Martine Bérubé
  • Cabrera, Andrea A.
  • Rui Prieto
  • Mónica A. Silva
  • Jooke Robbins
  • Naohisa Kanda
  • Luis A. Pastene
  • Mutsuo Goto
  • Hideyoshi Yoshida
  • Gísli A. Víkingsson
  • Per J. Palsbøll

Currently, three stocks of sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) are defined in the North Atlantic; the Nova Scotian, Iceland-Denmark Strait and Eastern North Atlantic stocks, which are mainly based upon historical catch and sighting data. We analyzed mitochondrial control region DNA (mtDNA) sequences and genotypes from 7 to 11 microsatellite loci in 87 samples from three sites in the North Atlantic; Iceland, the Gulf of Maine and the Azores, and compared against the North Pacific using 489 previously published samples. No statistically significant deviations from homogeneity were detected among the North Atlantic samples at mtDNA or microsatellite loci. The genealogy estimated from the mtDNA sequences revealed a clear division of the haplotypes into a North Atlantic and a North Pacific clade, with the exception of one haplotype detected in a single sample from the Azores, which was included in the North Pacific clade. Significant genetic divergence between the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans was detected (mtDNA ΦST = 0.72, microsatellite Weir and Cockerham’s ϴ = 0.20; p < 0.001). The coalescent-based estimate of the population divergence time between the North Atlantic and North Pacific populations from the sequence variation among the mtDNA sequences was at 163,000 years ago. However, the inference was limited by an absence of samples from the Southern Hemisphere and uncertainty regarding mutation rates and generation times. The estimates of inter-oceanic migration rates were low (Nm at 0.007 into the North Pacific and at 0.248 in the opposite direction). Although estimates of genetic divergence among the current North Atlantic stocks were low and consistent with the extensive range of movement observed in satellite tagged sei whales, the high uncertainty of the genetic divergence estimates precludes rejection of multiple stocks in the North Atlantic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1007-1024
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Atlantic Ocean, Migration, Northern Hemisphere, Pacific Ocean, Population genetics, Sei whale

ID: 248032012