GENETIC RELATEDNESS OF TWO POPULATIONS OF THE SOUTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL, MIROUNGA LEONINA

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Abstract

Blood samples from southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) from Heard and Macquarie Islands were surveyed electrophoretically for protein variation. Thirty proteins encoded by a minimum of 35 loci were screened, four of which were found to be polymorphic. Statistically significant differences in allele frequencies were found between the two populations at three loci. Heterozygosity estimates for the Heard and Macquarie island populations were 0.034 ± 0.020 (mean ± standard error) and O.029 ± 0.017 respectively, with a Nei distance of 0.007. The findings suggest that the two populations may have diverged genetically and very limited gene flow exists between the islands, a finding consistent with limited information from mark-recapture studies.

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