Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 7, pp 1453–1462 | Cite as

Microsatellite variation and significant population genetic structure of endangered finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides) in Chinese coastal waters and the Yangtze River

  • Lian Chen
  • Michael W. Bruford
  • Shixia Xu
  • Kaiya Zhou
  • Guang Yang
Original Paper


The finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) inhabits a wide range of tropical and temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific region. Genetic structure of finless porpoises in Chinese waters in three regions (Yangtze River, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea) was analyzed, including the Yangtze finless porpoise which is widely known because of its highly endangered status and unusual adaptation to freshwater. To assist in conservation and management of this species, ten microsatellite loci were used to genotype 125 individuals from the three regions. Contrary to the low genetic diversity revealed in previous mtDNA control region sequence analyses, relatively high levels of genetic variation in microsatellite profiles (H E = 0.732–0.795) were found. Bayesian clustering analysis suggested that finless porpoises in Chinese waters could be described as three distinct genetic groups, which corresponded well to population “units” (populations, subspecies, or species) delimited in earlier studies, based on morphological variation, distribution, and genetic analyses. Genetic differentiation between regions was significant, with F ST values ranging from 0.07 to 0.137. Immigration rates estimated using a Bayesian method and population ancestry analyses suggested no or very limited gene flow among regional types, even in the area of overlap between types. These results strongly support the classification of porpoises in these regions into distinct evolutionarily significant units, including at least two separate species, and therefore they should be treated as different management units in the design and implementation of conservation programmes.



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) key project grant no. 30830016 to Yang, NSFC grant no. 30670294 to Yang, the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-07-0445), the Ministry of Education of China to Yang, the Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education (SRFDP 20060319002), the Ministry of Education of China to Yang, and the major project of the Natural Science Foundation of the Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions of China (07KJA18016) to Yang, and a UK Royal Society Incoming Fellowship to Bruford and Yang. All samples examined in this study were collected from already-dead individuals incidentally captured in fisheries bycatch, and no ethics approval is needed in such cases in China. We thank two anonymous referees for their critical comments which greatly improved the submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lian Chen
    • 1
  • Michael W. Bruford
    • 2
  • Shixia Xu
    • 1
  • Kaiya Zhou
    • 1
  • Guang Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Biodiversity and Biotechnology, College of Life SciencesNanjing Normal UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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