MEPS 494:291-306 (2013)  -  doi:10.3354/meps10508

Strong maternal fidelity and natal philopatry shape genetic structure in North Pacific humpback whales

C. Scott Baker1,*, Debbie Steel1, John Calambokidis2, Erin Falcone2, Ursula González-Peral3, Jay Barlow4, Alexander M. Burdin5, Phillip J. Clapham6, John K. B. Ford7, Christine M. Gabriele8, David Mattila9, Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho10, Janice M. Straley11, Barbara L. Taylor4, Jorge Urbán3, Paul R. Wade6, David Weller4, Briana H. Witteveen12, Manami Yamaguchi13 

1Marine Mammal Institute and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
2Cascadia Research Collective, 218½ West Fourth Avenue, Olympia, Washington 98501, USA
3Programa de Investigación de Mamíferos Marinos, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, Baja California Sur 23080, México
4NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
5Kamchatka Branch of Pacific Institute of Geography, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Rybakov Prospect, 19-a Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky 683024, Russia
6National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
7Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9T 6N7, Canada
8Glacier Bay National Park, PO Box 140, Gustavus, Alaska 99826, USA
9Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, 726 South Kihei Road, Kihei, Hawaii 96753, USA
10Instituto Nacional de Ecologia y Cambio Climático, Carretera Ensenada-Tijuana 3918 Fracc. Playitas, Ensenada, Baja California 22860, México
11University of Alaska, Southeast Sitka Campus, 1332 Seward Avenue, Sitka, Alaska 99835, USA
12University of Alaska Fairbanks, School Fisheries & Ocean Sciences, 118 Trident Way, Kodiak, Alaska 99615, USA
13NPO Ogasawara Club, Ocean Research Unit, Okumura, Chichi-jima, Ogasawara, Tokyo 100-2101, Japan

ABSTRACT: We quantified the relative influence of maternal fidelity to feeding grounds and natal fidelity to breeding grounds on the population structure of humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae based on an ocean-wide survey of mitochondrial (mt) DNA diversity in the North Pacific. For 2193 biopsy samples collected from whales in 10 feeding regions and 8 breeding regions during the winter and summer of 2004 to 2006, we first used microsatellite genotyping (average, 9.5 loci) to identify replicate samples. From sequences of the mtDNA control region (500 bp) we identified 28 unique haplotypes from 30 variable sites. Haplotype frequencies differed markedly among feeding regions (overall FST = 0.121, ΦST = 0.178, p < 0.0001), supporting previous evidence of strong maternal fidelity. Haplotype frequencies also differed markedly among breeding regions (overall FST = 0.093, ΦST = 0.106, p < 0.0001), providing evidence of strong natal fidelity. Although sex-biased dispersal was not evident, differentiation of microsatellite allele frequencies was weak compared to differentiation of mtDNA haplotypes, suggesting male-biased gene flow. Feeding and breeding regions showed significant differences in haplotype frequencies, even for regions known to be strongly connected by patterns of individual migration. Thus, the influence of migratory fidelity seems to operate somewhat independently on feeding and breeding grounds over an evolutionary time scale. This results in a complex population structure and the potential to define multiple units to conserve in either seasonal habitat.


KEY WORDS: mtDNA · Microsatellite genotypes · Migration · Genetic management units


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Cite this article as: Baker CS, Steel D, Calambokidis J, Falcone E and others (2013) Strong maternal fidelity and natal philopatry shape genetic structure in North Pacific humpback whales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 494:291-306

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