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Keywords:

  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • Tursiops truncatus ;
  • genetic diversity;
  • biological structure;
  • phylogeography;
  • familial relationship;
  • sex-biased dispersal

Abstract

The biological and genetic structure of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that migrate seasonally near Japan remains largely unknown. We investigated the genetic and family structure in a group of 165 common bottlenose dolphins caught off the coast of Japan using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and 20 microsatellite DNA markers. Phylogenetic analysis of the mtDNA control region sequences suggested that the dolphins were related more closely to oceanic types from Chinese waters than other geographic regions. The information on sex, sexual maturation and age together with the genetic markers revealed a strong likelihood for 37 familial relationships related mostly to maternity and an under-representation of juvenile female offspring. The maternal dolphins had a similar offspring-birth interval as the coastal types from North Atlantic Ocean, but a slightly younger first-progeny age. The sex bias in the captured group was particularly marked towards an over-representation of males among the young and immature dolphins, whereas the mature adults had an equal number of males and females. These results should be useful for future comparative biological, genetic and evolutionary investigations of bottlenose dolphins from the North Pacific Ocean with those from other regions.