Loss of genetic diversity in sea otters (Enhydra lutris) associated with the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries


Shawn Larson. Fax: 206 386 4328; E-mail: shawn.larson@ci.seattle.wa.us


Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) populations experienced widespread reduction and extirpation due to the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. We examined genetic variation within four microsatellite markers and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) d-loop in one prefur trade population and compared it to five modern populations to determine potential losses in genetic variation. While mtDNA sequence variability was low within both modern and extinct populations, analysis of microsatellite allelic data revealed that the prefur trade population had significantly more variation than all the extant sea otter populations. Reduced genetic variation may lead to inbreeding depression and we believe sea otter populations should be closely monitored for potential associated negative effects.