Population structure and gene flow of the Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in the eastern Atlantic Arctic based on mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite variation


L. W. Anderson Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Inland Fisheries, Vejlsøvej 39, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark. Fax: +45-89213150; E-mail: lwa@dfu.min.dk


The population structure of the Atlantic walrus, Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus, was studied using 11 polymorphic microsatellites and restriction fragment length polymorphism detected in the NADH-dehydrogenase ND1, ND2 and ND3/4 segments in mtDNA. A total of 105 walrus samples were analysed from northwest (NW) Greenland, east (E) Greenland, Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land. Two of the 10 haplotypes detected in the four samples were diagnostic for the NW Greenland sample, which implied that the group of walruses in this area is evolutionary distinct from walruses in the other three areas. One individual sampled in E Greenland exhibited a Pacific haplotype, which proved a connection between the Pacific walrus and walruses in eastern Greenland. The Franz Joseph Land, Svalbard and E Greenland samples shared the most common haplotype, indicating very little differentiation at the mtDNA level. Gene flow (Nm) estimates among the four areas indicated a very restricted exchange of female genes between NW Greenland and the more eastern Atlantic Arctic samples, and a closer relationship between the three samples composing the eastern Atlantic Arctic. The genetic variation at 11 polymorphic microsatellite loci grouped individuals into three populations, NW Greenland, E Greenland and a common Franz Joseph Land–Svalbard population, which were connected by moderate gene flow.