[MARMAM] New publication- Holocene deglaciation drove rapid genetic diversification of Atlantic walrus

Ruiz Puerta, E.J. e.j.ruiz.puerta at rug.nl
Thu Oct 19 05:54:20 PDT 2023

Hello everybody,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce our last publication on
Atlantic walrus evolutionary history recently published in Proceedings of
the Royal Society B

Open access here:


Rapid global warming is severely impacting Arctic ecosystems and is
predicted to transform the abundance, distribution and genetic diversity of
Arctic species, though these linkages are poorly understood. We address
this gap in knowledge using palaeogenomics to examine how earlier periods
of global warming influenced the genetic diversity of Atlantic walrus
(Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus), a species closely associated with sea ice and
shallow-water habitats. We analysed 82 ancient and historical Atlantic
walrus mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes), including now-extinct
populations in Iceland and the Canadian Maritimes, to reconstruct the
Atlantic walrus' response to Arctic deglaciation. Our results demonstrate
that the phylogeography and genetic diversity of Atlantic walrus
populations was initially shaped by the last glacial maximum (LGM),
surviving in distinct glacial refugia, and subsequently expanding rapidly
in multiple migration waves during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene.
The timing of diversification and establishment of distinct populations
corresponds closely with the chronology of the glacial retreat, pointing to
a strong link between walrus phylogeography and sea ice. Our results
indicate that accelerated ice loss in the modern Arctic may trigger further
dispersal events, likely increasing the connectivity of northern stocks
while isolating more southerly stocks putatively caught in small pockets of
suitable habitat.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Emily Ruiz Puerta

*MSc.Emily Ruiz-Puerta*

Ph.D. fellow - MSCA SeaChanges program ITN @SeaChangesITN

Arctic Centre

Groningen Institute of Archeology (GIA)

University of Groningen (RUG), The Netherlands.


Marine Mammals Ecology and Evolution

EvoGenomics section

GLOBE Institute

University of Copenhagen (KU), Denmark


*"Scientific discoveries happen in a social context, and they can be as
much a matter of happenstance as the friendship we form" *
>From "Spying on Whales" (2018) by Nick Pyenson, p. 138
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