, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 715-728
Date: 25 Nov 2005

Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA analyses reveal fine scale geographic structure in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Gulf of Mexico

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There is a need for biological information to support current stock designations of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Gulf of Mexico. The existence of many inshore, resident “communities” raises questions as to the relationship these dolphins may hold with dolphins inhabiting neighboring inshore and coastal areas. In this study, population subdivision was examined among four resident, inshore bottlenose dolphin stocks (Sarasota Bay, FL, Tampa Bay, FL, Charlotte Harbor, FL and Matagorda Bay, TX) and one coastal stock (1–12 km offshore) in the Gulf of Mexico. Evidence of significant population structure among all areas was found on the basis of both mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequence data and nine nuclear microsatellite loci. Estimates of relatedness showed no population contained a significantly high number of related individuals, while separate AMOVAs for males and females indicated that both sexes exhibit a significant level of site philopatry. Results presented here provide the first genetic evidence of population subdivision between the coastal Gulf of Mexico and adjacent inshore areas along the central west coast of Florida. Such strong genetic subdivision is surprising given the short geographical distance between many of these areas and the lack of obvious geographic barriers to prevent gene flow. These findings support the current, separate identification of stocks for bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the eastern coastal and inshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico.