Data from: Bucking the trend: genetic analysis reveals high diversity, large population size and low differentiation in a deep ocean cetacean
Millar, Craig et al. (2015), Data from: Bucking the trend: genetic analysis reveals high diversity, large population size and low differentiation in a deep ocean cetacean, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.f47f6
Understanding the genetic structure of a population is essential to its conservation and management. We report the level of genetic diversity and determine the population structure of a cryptic deep ocean cetacean, the Gray’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon grayi). We analysed 530 bp of mitochondrial control region and 12 microsatellite loci from 94 individuals stranded around New Zealand and Australia. The samples cover a large area of the species distribution (~6000 km) and were collected over a 22-year period. We show high genetic diversity (h=0.933–0.987, π=0.763–0.996% and Rs=4.22–4.37, He=0.624–0.675), and, in contrast to other cetaceans, we found a complete lack of genetic structure in both maternally and biparentally inherited markers. The oceanic habitats around New Zealand are diverse with extremely deep waters, seamounts and submarine canyons that are suitable for Gray’s beaked whales and their prey. We propose that the abundance of this rich habitat has promoted genetic homogeneity in this species. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the lack of beaked whale sightings is the result of their low abundance, but this is in contrast to our estimates of female effective population size based on mitochondrial data. In conclusion, the high diversity and lack of genetic structure can be explained by a historically large population size, in combination with no known exploitation, few apparent behavioural barriers and abundant habitat.