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ESR 18:163-167 (2012)  -  DOI:

Genetic analysis of right whales in the eastern North Pacific confirms severe extirpation risk

R. G. LeDuc1,*, B. L. Taylor1, K. K. Martien1, K. M. Robertson1, R. L. Pitman1, J. C. Salinas2, A. M. Burdin3, A. S. Kennedy4, P. R. Wade4, P. J. Clapham4, R. L. Brownell Jr.1

1Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
2Lab. Mamiferos Marinos, Universidad Autonoma de Baja Caifornia Sur, La Paz, BCS 23060, Mexico
3Kamchatka Branch, Pacific Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky 683000, Russia
4National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA

ABSTRACT: Genetic analysis of 49 biopsy samples from North Pacific right whales Eubalaena japonica in the eastern (48) and western (1) North Pacific revealed 24 individual whales with 7 mitochondrial haplotypes. Three pairs of large and small individuals were identified in the field; genotype analysis indicated that 2 of these could represent mother−offspring pairs; for the third small individual, no sampled female genetically qualified as a potential mother. In aggregate, the population appears to have lost some genetic diversity, though not to the degree of North Atlantic right whales E. glacialis, and males outnumber females 2:1. A comparison of the eastern Pacific samples to a single Russian sample suggested that the 2 populations are isolated to some degree. The effective population size for the eastern North Pacific was calculated to be 11.6 (95% CI: 2.9−75.0), based on the estimated linkage disequilibrium. These results further indicate that this population is at immediate risk of extirpation.

KEY WORDS: Critically Endangered species · Mammal · IUCN Red List category · Eubalaena japonica · Genetics · Right whales

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Cite this article as: LeDuc RG, Taylor BL, Martien KK, Robertson KM and others (2012) Genetic analysis of right whales in the eastern North Pacific confirms severe extirpation risk. Endang Species Res 18:163-167.

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