, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 339-345

DNA profile of a sixteenth century western North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

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Abstract

Low levels of genetic variability identified within the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), when compared to the Southern right whale (E. australis) and other large whales, have been suggested to result from population reductions due to whaling. Previous genetic analysis of 218 whale bones from sixteenth century Basque whaling sites in the western North Atlantic revealed only a single right whale bone. We determined the genotypes of 27 microsatellite loci using DNA isolated from this bone. All alleles from the historic specimen occur in the extant western North Atlantic population and both the probability of identity of the specimen and the number of heterozygous loci are similar to that in the extant population. Assessments of how genetically different the historical population might have been suggest genetic characteristics have not changed substantially over four centuries of whaling.