ESR 32:551-567 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00822

First circumglobal assessment of Southern Hemisphere humpback whale mitochondrial genetic variation and implications for management

Howard C. Rosenbaum1,2,*, Francine Kershaw3,4, Martín Mendez2,5, Cristina Pomilla2,6, Matthew S. Leslie2,7, Ken P. Findlay8, Peter B. Best9, Timothy Collins1, Michel Vely10, Marcia H. Engel11, Robert Baldwin12, Gianna Minton13, Michael Meÿer14, Lilian Flórez-González15, M. Michael Poole16,17, Nan Hauser16,18, Claire Garrigue16,19, Muriel Brasseur20, John Bannister21, Megan Anderson22,23, Carlos Olavarría24,25, C. Scott Baker16,26

1Wildlife Conservation Society, Ocean Giants Program, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460, USA
2Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, 79th Street and Central Park W, New York, NY 10024, USA Affiliations for other authors are given in the Supplement at www.int-res.com/articles/suppl/n032p551_supp.pdf
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The description of genetic population structure over a species’ geographic range can provide insights into its evolutionary history and also support effective management efforts. Assessments for globally distributed species are rare, however, requiring significant international coordination and collaboration. The global distribution of demographically discrete populations for the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae is not fully known, hampering the definition of appropriate management units. Here, we present the first circumglobal assessment of mitochondrial genetic population structure across the species’ range in the Southern Hemisphere and Arabian Sea. We combine new and existing data from the mitochondrial (mt)DNA control region that resulted in a 311 bp consensus sequence of the mtDNA control region for 3009 individuals sampled across 14 breeding stocks and subpopulations currently recognized by the International Whaling Commission. We assess genetic diversity and test for genetic differentiation and also estimate the magnitude and directionality of historic matrilineal gene flow between putative populations. Our results indicate that maternally directed site fidelity drives significant genetic population structure between breeding stocks within ocean basins. However, patterns of connectivity differ across the circumpolar range, possibly as a result of differences in the extent of longitudinal movements on feeding areas. The number of population comparisons observed to be significantly differentiated were found to diminish at the subpopulation scale when nucleotide differences were examined, indicating that more complex processes underlie genetic structure at this scale. It is crucial that these complexities and uncertainties are afforded greater consideration in management and regulatory efforts.


KEY WORDS:  Humpback whale · International Whaling Commission · Management unit · Population structure · Southern Hemisphere · Arabian Sea


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Cite this article as: Rosenbaum HC, Kershaw F, Mendez M, Pomilla C and others (2017) First circumglobal assessment of Southern Hemisphere humpback whale mitochondrial genetic variation and implications for management. Endang Species Res 32:551-567. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00822

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