POPULATION STRUCTURE OF THE BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS) AS DETERMINED BY RESTRICTION ENDONUCLEASE ANALYSIS OF MITOCHONDRIAL DNA

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Abstract

Abstract: Restriction fragment length polymorphisms of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) were used to test for population subdivision in the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Atlantic and Pacific dolphin mtDNA samples exhibited distinctly different haplotypes (approximately 2.4% sequence divergence), indicating a lack of gene exchange. Within the Atlantic Ocean, mtDNA samples from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast were also found to be distinct, with a sequence divergence of approximately 0.6%. The Atlantic Coast–Gulf of Mexico dichotomy is consistent with patterns of genetic variation from other marine and coastal organisms from this region, and supports the hypothesized role of bio-geographic events in promoting the divergence of these and other forms. Regional differentiation was identified along the Atlantic Coast, whereas low sequence divergences among haplotypes and consistent haplotype frequencies across populations suggested considerable gene exchange among Gulf of Mexico populations. A highly divergent haplotype found in two individuals from two localities in the Gulf of Mexico is best explained by dispersal from either a distinct offshore Gulf stock or an unsampled Atlantic Coast stock. Additional samples are required to test for the existence of a distinct offshore race and, if it exists, to identify its distribution and contribution to population structure.

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