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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 566:217-227 (2017)  -  DOI:

Mitochondrial DNA reveals historical maternal lineages and a postglacial expansion of the grey seal in European waters

Carole Decker1, Sami Hassani2, Marie-Dominique Jezequel1, Célia Rault1,3, Christine Dumas2, Eléonore Méheust1,2, Eric Alfonsi1,2, Jean-Luc Jung1,*

1BioGeMME (Biologie et Génétique des Mammifères Marins dans leur Environnement), 6 avenue le Gorgeu, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, CS 93837, 29238 Brest Cedex 3, France
2Laboratoire d’Etude des Mammifères Marins, Océanopolis, Port de Plaisance du Moulin Blanc, 29210 Brest, France
3CMNF (Coordination Mammalogique du Nord de la France), 806 Rue Haute, 62850 Alembon, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Three different evolutionarily significant units (ESU) can be discerned in the grey seal Halichoerus grypus: in the northwest Atlantic, the northeast Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. The northeast Atlantic population has been strongly affected by hunting around the European mainland, where it is only in the last decades that breeding colonies have reappeared. The southernmost settlement of the northeast Atlantic ESU is found in the Molène archipelago, northwest France. We studied polymorphisms of the mitochondrial control region (MCR) in grey seals sampled along the Atlantic coast of France for over a decade. MCR polymorphisms highlighted the existence of 4 major MCR haplogroups. Comparison of MCR sequences with those in the GenBank database yielded highly significant differentiation between grey seals sampled in France and grey seals originating from the North Sea and the north and east of the British Isles, as well as from the Baltic Sea. MCR haplogroups were also identified in Baltic Sea grey seals, with some being in common with our samples, while others were not. The times of separation between the MCR haplogroups were estimated to be between 84000 and 20500 years ago, and differentiation between Baltic Sea and French coast haplotypes was estimated to have occurred approximately 8000 years ago. These data, added to positive expansion signals, suggest that MCR haplogroups correspond to ancestral maternal lineages, isolated in different grey seal refugia during the last ice age and prior to the expansion of the species in the North Atlantic and the separation between the East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea ESUs.

KEY WORDS: Grey seals · Genetic diversity · Marine mammals · Mitochondrial control region · Population divergence time

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Cite this article as: Decker C, Hassani S, Jezequel MD, Rault C and others (2017) Mitochondrial DNA reveals historical maternal lineages and a postglacial expansion of the grey seal in European waters. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 566:217-227.

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