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Panmictic population structure in the hooded seal (Cystophora cristata)


D. W. Coltman, Fax: +1780-437-9234; E-mail:


Two putative populations of hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) occur in the North Atlantic. The Greenland Sea population pup and breed on the pack ice near Jan Mayen (‘West Ice’) while the Northwest Atlantic population is thought to pup in the Davis Strait, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (the ‘Gulf’), and off southern Labrador or northeast Newfoundland (the ‘Front’). We used microsatellite profiling of 300 individuals at 13 loci and mitochondrial DNA sequencing of the control region of 123 individuals to test for genetic differentiation between these four breeding herds. We found no significant genetic differences between breeding areas, nor evidence for cryptic nor higher level genetic structure in this species. The Greenland Sea breeding herd was genetically most distant from the Northwest Atlantic breeding areas; however, the differences were statistically nonsignificant. Our data therefore suggest that the world's hooded seals comprise a single panmictic genetic population.