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Data from: Molecular population genetics of the northern elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris

Cite this dataset

Abadía-Cardoso, Alicia; Freimer, Nelson; Deiner, Kristy; Garza, John (2017). Data from: Molecular population genetics of the northern elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris [Dataset]. Dryad.


The northern elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris, was heavily hunted and declared extinct in the 19th century. However, a colony remained on remote Guadalupe Island, Mexico and the species has since repopulated most of its historical distribution. Here, we present a comprehensive evaluation of genetic variation in the species. First, we assess the effect of the demographic bottleneck on microsatellite variability and compare it with that found in other pinnipeds, demonstrating levels of variation similar to that in species that continue to be threatened with extinction. Next, we use sequence data from these markers to demonstrate that some of the limited polymorphism predates the bottleneck. However, most contemporary variation appears to have arisen recently and persisted due to exponential growth. We also describe how we use the range in allele size of microsatellites to estimate ancestral effective population size before the bottleneck, demonstrating a large reduction in effective size. We then employ a classical method for bacteria to estimate the microsatellite mutation rate in the species, deriving an estimate that is extremely similar to that estimated for a similar set of loci in humans, indicating consistency of microsatellite mutation rates in mammals. Finally, we find slight significant structure between some geographically separated colonies, although its biological significance is unclear. This work demonstrates that genetic analysis can be useful for evaluating the population biology of the northern elephant seal, in spite of the bottleneck that removed most genetic variation from the species.

Usage notes


Western North America
Northeast Pacific Ocean