[MARMAM] Demographic history of porpoises in the Black Sea

michael fontaine mikafontaine at gmail.com
Fri Sep 28 08:31:56 PDT 2012

Dear colleagues,

We delighted to announce you the recent release of our paper telling the extraordinary story of harbor porpoises in the Black Sea:

Fontaine, M.C., Snirc, A., Frantzis, A., Koutrakis, E., Öztürk, B., Oztürk, A.A., Austerlitz F. (2012). History of expansion and anthropogenic collapse in a top marine predator of the Black Sea estimated from genetic data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, E2569–76.

Two major ecological transitions marked the history of the Black Sea after the last Ice Age. The first was the postglacial transition from a brackish-water to a marine ecosystem dominated by porpoises and dolphins once this basin was reconnected back to the Mediterranean Sea (ca. 8,000 y B.P.). The second occurred during the past decades, when overfishing and hunting activities brought these predators close to extinction, having a deep impact on the structure and dynamics of the ecosystem. Estimating the extent of this decimation is essential for characterizing this ecosystem’s dynamics and for formulating restoration plans. However, this extent is poorly documented in historical records. We addressed this issue for one of the main Black Sea predators, the harbor porpoise, using a population genetics approach. Analyzing its genetic diversity using an approximate Bayesian computation approach, we show that only a demographic expansion (at most 5,000 y ago) followed by a contemporaneous population collapse can explain the observed genetic data. We demonstrate that both the postglacial settlement of harbor porpoises in the Black Sea and the recent anthropogenic activities have left a clear footprint on their genetic diversity. Specifically, we infer a strong population reduction (∼90%) that occurred within the past 5 decades, which can therefore clearly be related to the recent massive killing of small cetaceans and to the continuing incidental catches in commercial fisheries. Our study thus provides a quantitative assessment of these demographically catastrophic events, also showing that two separate historical events can be inferred from contemporary genetic data.





`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸·´¯`·.. ><((((º>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸.·´¯`·...¸><((((º>

Postdoctoral Research Associate
University of Notre Dame
Department of Biological Sciences
311 Galvin Life Sciences
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

Office phone: +1-574-631-8045
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