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MEPS 628:195-209 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13108

Prey differences drive local genetic adaptation in Antarctic fur seals

Alison C. Cleary1,2,*, Marthán Bester3, Jaume Forcada4, Michael Goebel5, Simon D. Goldsworthy6, Christophe Guinet7, Joseph I. Hoffman8, Kit M. Kovacs1, Christian Lydersen1, Andrew D. Lowther1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Department of Natural Sciences, University of Agder, 4630 Kristiansand, Norway
3Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X20, Hatfield 0028, South Africa
4British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OET, UK
5Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
6South Australian Research and Development Institute, 2 Hamra Avenue, West Beach, South Australia 5024, Australia
7Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chize (CEBC), CNRS and Universite´ de La Rochelle - UMR 7372, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
8Department of Animal Behaviour, Bielefeld University, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) colonies are found on sub-Antarctic islands around the continent. These islands experience a range of conditions in terms of physical and biological habitat, creating a natural laboratory to investigate local genetic adaptation. One striking habitat difference is in the availability of Euphausia superba krill as prey, which has led to A. gazella exhibiting a range of diets. A. gazella in some colonies consume exclusively krill, while their conspecifics in other colonies feed mainly on fish and consume few to no krill. To investigate potential adaptations to these different prey fields, reduced representation genome sequencing was conducted on A. gazella from the 8 major colonies. Twenty-seven genomic regions exhibiting signatures of natural selection were identified. Two of these genomic regions were clearly associated with seals living in krill-dominated areas or those in fish-dominated areas. Twenty-two additional genomic regions under selection showed a pattern consistent with prey differences as the driver of selection after historical migrations from krill-dominated habitats where lineages evolved to present krill-poor habitat areas were taken into account. Only 1 of the genomic regions identified appeared to be explained by any other environmental variable analysed (depth). Genomic regions under prey-driven selection included genes associated with regulation of gene expression, skeletal development, and lipid metabolism. Adaptation to local prey has implications for spatial management of this species and for the potential impacts of climate- or harvest-driven reductions in krill abundance on these seals.


KEY WORDS: Arctocephalus gazella · Double digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing · ddRAD · Diet · Euphausia superba · Natural selection


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Cite this article as: Cleary AC, Bester M, Forcada J, Goebel M and others (2019) Prey differences drive local genetic adaptation in Antarctic fur seals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 628:195-209. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13108

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