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Evolutionary impacts differ between two exploited populations of northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus)

Cite this dataset

Einfeldt, Anthony et al. (2020). Evolutionary impacts differ between two exploited populations of northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Interpretation of conservation status should be informed by an appreciation of genetic diversity, past demography, and overall trends in population size, which contribute to a species’ evolutionary potential and resilience to genetic risks. Low genetic diversity can be symptomatic of rapid demographic declines and impose genetic risks to populations, but can also be maintained by natural processes. The northern bottlenose whale Hyperoodon ampullatus has the lowest known mitochondrial diversity of any cetacean and was intensely whaled in the Northwest Atlantic over the last century, but whether exploitation imposed genetic risks that could limit recovery is unknown. We sequenced full mitogenomes and genotyped 37 novel microsatellites for 128 individuals from known areas of abundance in the Scotian Shelf, Northern and Southern Labrador, Davis Strait, and Iceland, and a newly discovered group off Newfoundland. Despite low diversity and shared haplotypes across all regions, both markers supported the Endangered Scotian Shelf population as distinct from the combined northern regions. The genetic affinity of Newfoundland was uncertain, suggesting an area of mixing with no clear population distinction for the region. Demographic reconstruction using mitogenomes suggests that the northern region underwent population expansion following the last glacial maximum, but for the peripheral Scotian Shelf population, a stable demographic trend was followed by a drastic decline over a temporal scale consistent with increasing human activity in the Northwest Atlantic. Low connectivity between the Scotian Shelf and the rest of the Atlantic likely compounded the impact of intensive whaling for this species, potentially imposing genetic risks affecting recovery of this population. We highlight how the combination of historic environmental conditions across the North Atlantic and modern exploitation of this species has had very different evolutionary impacts on structured populations of northern bottlenose whales.


Sampling, DNA preparation, sequencing, and assembly methods are described in:


Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

National Geographic Society, Award: 4711‐6

Killam Trusts

PADI Foundation, Award: 28529