[MARMAM] New publication: Genetic Kinship Analyses Reveal That Gray’s Beaked Whales Strand in Unrelated Groups

Kirsten Thompson kffthompson at gmail.com
Wed May 3 01:42:43 PDT 2017


Myself and coauthors are are pleased to announce the following publication in Journal of Heredity that investigates genetic kinship in stranded Gray’s beaked whales:

Selina Patel, Kirsten F. Thompson, Anna W. Santure, Rochelle Constantine, Craig D. Millar; Genetic Kinship Analyses Reveal That Gray’s Beaked Whales Strand in Unrelated Groups. J Hered 2017 esx021. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esx021


Some marine mammals are so rarely seen that their life history and social structure remain a mystery. Around New Zealand, Gray’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon grayi) are almost never seen alive, yet they are a commonly stranded species. Gray’s are unique among the beaked whales in that they frequently strand in groups, providing an opportunity to investigate their social organization. We examined group composition and genetic kinship in 113 Gray’s beaked whales with samples collected over a 20-year period. Fifty-six individuals stranded in 19 groups (2 or more individuals), and 57 whales stranded individually. Mitochondrial control region haplotypes and microsatellite genotypes (16 loci) were obtained for 103 whales. We estimated pairwise relatedness between all pairs of individuals and average relatedness within, and between, groups. We identified 6 mother–calf pairs and 2 half-siblings, including 2 whales in different strandings 17 years and 1500 km apart. Surprisingly, none of the adults stranding together were related suggesting that groups are not formed through the retention of kin. These data suggest that both sexes may disperse from their mothers, and groups consisting of unrelated subadults are common. We also found no instances of paternity within the groups. Our results provide the first insights into dispersal, social organization, and the mating system in this rarely sighted species. Why whales strand is still unknown but, in Gray’s beaked whales, the dead can tell us much about the living.

The full text can be accessed through: https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esx021 <https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esx021>

More details or pdf requests please feel free to contact me on kffthompson at gmail.com <mailto:kffthompson at gmail.com>

Kind regards,

Kirsten Thompson & Coauthors


Kirsten Thompson
Molecular Ecology and Evolution Group
Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences
University of Exeter, UK
email: K.F.Thompson at exeter.ac.uk

Skype: kirsten.thompson1
tel: +44 (0)7841 695569

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