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Keywords:

  • harbor seal;
  • Phoca vitulina richardsi;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • mitochondrial DNA haplotypes;
  • Puget Sound;
  • genetic structure

Abstract

Genetic substructure among groups of Pacific harbor seals, Phoca vitulina richardsi, along the western coast of the United States was investigated using mitochondrial DNA sequences. Blood and tissue samples were removed from 86 seals inhabiting Puget Sound and the Pacific coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. A 320 base-pair segment of the control region was amplified using the polymerase chain reaction and directly sequenced. These data indicated a high level of diversity. Thirty variable sites were found that define 47 mitochondrial haplotypes. Among groups of P. v. richardsi sampled, 5 haplotypes were shared, but most (42) were unique to a locality. Haplotypic frequency and an Analysis of Molecular Variance (Amova) revealed significant differences (P= 0.001) among regions. Phylogenetic analysis indicated Puget Sound seals possess unique divergent lineages not found in seals from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. These lineages may represent haplotypes from north of Washington, which is consistent with late reproductive timing of harbor seals from Puget Sound.