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ESR 9:197-211 (2009)  -  DOI:

Genetic signals of historic and recent migration between sub-populations of Atlantic walrus Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus west and east of Greenland

L. W. Andersen1,*, E. W. Born2, D. W. Doidge3, I. Gjertz4, Ø. Wiig5, R. S. Waples6

1National Environmental Research Institute and University of Aarhus, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, Grenåvej 12, 8410 Rønde, Denmark
2Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
3Nunavik Research Centre, Makivik Corporation, PO Box 179, Kuujjuaq, Québec JOM 1CO, Canada
4The Research Council of Norway, PO Box 2700 St. Hanshaugen, 0131 Oslo, Norway
5Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172 Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway
6Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA

ABSTRACT: Defining sub-populations and determining migration rates between them is crucial for sound management and conservation. This also applies to the Atlantic walrus Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus, which is still exploited although population levels are low in some cases and information on abundance is lacking in others. Analysis of muscle and skin tissues using 11 nuclear microsatellite markers from a total of 297 Atlantic walruses from the Hudson Strait across W, NW and E Greenland to Svalbard and Franz Josef Land was undertaken to determine the number of sub-populations, their ancestral origin and the contemporary rates and directions of migration (gene flow) between the various areas. The study indicated the existence of 5 sub-populations in the Hudson Strait, W Greenland, NW Greenland, E Greenland and Franz Josef Land-Svalbard. Identification of the Hudson Strait sub-population was novel; although differences between animals here and in W Greenland were small, they were statistically significant and indicated that walruses in the Hudson Strait could be a population source for walruses for the W Greenland sub-population. The direction of migration (Hudson Strait to W Greenland) suggested a genetic signal from a historical large-scale counter-clockwise perennial migration pattern in the Baffin Bay region. The study provides essential information on population sub-structuring that is a prerequisite for management of Atlantic walruses at sustainable levels.

KEY WORDS: Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus · Greenland · Microsatellites · Population structure · Migration direction

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Cite this article as: Andersen LW, Born EW, Doidge DW, Gjertz I, Wiig Ø, Waples RS (2009) Genetic signals of historic and recent migration between sub-populations of Atlantic walrus Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus west and east of Greenland. Endang Species Res 9:197-211.

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