Polar Biology

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 713-718

First online:

A review of the genetic relationships of Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) east and west of Greenland

  •  E. BornAffiliated withGreenland Institute of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
  • ,  L. AndersenAffiliated withGreenland Institute of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
  • ,  I. GjertzAffiliated withNorwegian Polar Institute, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
  • ,  Ø. WiigAffiliated withNorwegian Polar Institute, 9296 Tromsø, Norway

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Studies of the genetic variation involving allozymes, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA (microsatellites) in walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) were reviewed. In addition, the genetic relationships of a total of 211 Atlantic walruses, O. r. rosmarus, from 5 sampling areas west and east of Greenland were studied using 12 nuclear DNA-microsatellite loci and restriction fragment length polymorphism obtained from the ND1, ND2 and ND3/4 segments of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). At the mtDNA level, no divergence was observed among the three sampling areas east of Greenland (i.e. East Greenland, Svalbard and Franz Josef Land), whereas areas west of Greenland (i.e. Northwest and West Greenland) showed some differentiation. The genetic variation at the microsatellite loci grouped the individuals into four sub-populations: Northwest Greenland, West Greenland, East Greenland and a common Svalbard-Franz Josef Land sub-population. A significant correlation between genetic distance and geographic distance between the sampling areas (isolation-by-distance effect) was detected, especially at the mtDNA level. At a small-scale phylo-geographical level, the mtDNA data indicated that Atlantic walruses have diverged into two major groups: one northwest (i.e. in the North Water) and one east of Greenland (i.e. an East Greenland-Svalbard-Franz Josef Land group), whereas the haplotype distribution in the West Greenland sample reflected a mixture of both these groups. The microsatellite data supported a general grouping of walruses to the west and east of Greenland.