[MARMAM] New publication on population structure and historical demography in northern bottlenose whales

Laura Joan Feyrer laura.joan at gmail.com
Sat Nov 23 10:49:55 PST 2019

For those interested in genetic assessments of population structure and
historical demography in cetaceans we have recently published our open
access study:

 Feyrer, L.J., Bentzen, P., Whitehead, H., Paterson, I.G. and Einfeldt, A.,
2019. Evolutionary impacts differ between two exploited populations of
northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus). Ecology and Evolution.



Interpretation of conservation status should be informed by an appreciation
of genetic diversity, past demography, and overall trends in population
size, which contribute to a species' evolutionary potential and resilience
to genetic risks. Low genetic diversity can be symptomatic of rapid
demographic declines and impose genetic risks to populations, but can also
be maintained by natural processes. The northern bottlenose whale
Hyperoodon ampullatus has the lowest known mitochondrial diversity of any
cetacean and was intensely whaled in the Northwest Atlantic over the last
century, but whether exploitation imposed genetic risks that could limit
recovery is unknown. We sequenced full mitogenomes and genotyped 37 novel
microsatellites for 128 individuals from known areas of abundance in the
Scotian Shelf, Northern and Southern Labrador, Davis Strait, and Iceland,
and a newly discovered group off Newfoundland. Despite low diversity and
shared haplotypes across all regions, both markers supported the Endangered
Scotian Shelf population as distinct from the combined northern regions.
The genetic affinity of Newfoundland was uncertain, suggesting an area of
mixing with no clear population distinction for the region. Demographic
reconstruction using mitogenomes suggests that the northern region
underwent population expansion following the last glacial maximum, but for
the peripheral Scotian Shelf population, a stable demographic trend was
followed by a drastic decline over a temporal scale consistent with
increasing human activity in the Northwest Atlantic. Low connectivity
between the Scotian Shelf and the rest of the Atlantic likely compounded
the impact of intensive whaling for this species, potentially imposing
genetic risks affecting recovery of this population. We highlight how the
combination of historical environmental conditions and modern exploitation
of this species has had very different evolutionary impacts on structured
populations of northern bottlenose whales across the western North Atlantic.
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