Regional and global perspectives on the population structure of sperm whales

January 4, 2011

Principal Investigator: Phillip Morin, Marine Mammal Genetics Group

We have recently completed a project on the population structure of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the eastern and central north Pacific. For this project, all north Pacific samples in our collection were sequenced at the mitochondrial control region and genotyped for 6 microsatellites and 37 SNPs. We found that animals from the California Current were significantly differentiated from both Hawai'i and the eastern tropical Pacific, suggesting that the region supports a demographically independent population and providing the first indication that males may exhibit reproductive philopatry.

We are now expanding our sperm whale research to a global perspective. 150 samples from around the world are being prepared for whole mitochondrial genome sequencing. The resulting mitogenomic dataset will be particularly valuable for sperm whales given their low genetic diversity at most loci, and will help us to resolve global population structure.

Learn more:

Mesnick, S.L., B.L. Taylor, F.I. Archer, K.K. Martien, S. Escorza-Trevino, B.L. Hancock, S.C. Moreno-Medina, V.L. Pease, K.M. Robertson, J.M. Straley, R.W. Baird, J. Calambokidis, G.S. Schorr, P.R. Wade, V. Burkanov, C.R. Lunsford, L. Rendell and P.A. Morin. 2011. Sperm whale population structure in the eastern and central north Pacific inferred by the use of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Ecology Resources, 11:278-298.

Last modified: 12/24/2014