Conservation Genetics

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 431–443 | Cite as

Population structure of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variation among South American Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis)

  • Sabrina Rosa
  • Michel C. MilinkovitchEmail author
  • Koen Van  Waerebeek
  • Jehanne Berck
  • Jorge Oporto
  • Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto
  • Marie-Françoise Van  Bressem
  • Natalie Goodall
  • Insa Cassens


Little is known about the biology of Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis), a small cetacean species endemic to South American waters. Information on stock structure, however, is urgently needed, as the species suffers from considerable mortality due to local fishery activities throughout its distribution range. Using mitochondrial control region sequences and 11 species-specific microsatellite loci, we assessed the genetic differentiation among 118 stranded, incidentally or directly-caught Burmeister’s porpoises from different localities in Peruvian, Chilean, and Argentine waters. F-statistics and Bayesian clustering analyses indicate a major population differentiation along the South American Pacific coast, separating Peruvian from both Chilean and Argentine individuals. Interestingly, this population boundary is consistent with the population structure found in another sympatrically-occurring cetacean species: the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). Given that vulnerability to local depletion for South American coastal porpoises and dolphins is probably highest in the Peruvian population (due to high exploitation levels and recurrent El Niño events), the genetic data reported here considerably strengthen the need for conservation efforts focused on regulation of catches in local waters. Moreover, we discuss possible genetic differentiation among Burmeister’s porpoises (i) from the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and (ii) from different Peruvian harbors. Finally, cross-species amplifications suggest that our newly-developed microsatellite markers will be useful in population genetic studies in the five other extant porpoise species.


cetacean mtDNA microsatellites population structure management 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabrina Rosa
    • 1
  • Michel C. Milinkovitch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Koen Van  Waerebeek
    • 2
  • Jehanne Berck
    • 1
  • Jorge Oporto
    • 3
  • Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto
    • 4
  • Marie-Françoise Van  Bressem
    • 2
  • Natalie Goodall
    • 5
  • Insa Cassens
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics, Institute of Molecular Biology and MedicineFree University of BrusselsGosseliesBelgium
  2. 2.Peruvian Centre for Cetacean Research (CEPEC)Museo de DelfinesLimaPeru
  3. 3.Corporacion Terra AustralisValdiviaChile
  4. 4.Asociacion Pro DelphinusLimaPeru
  5. 5.Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas (CADIC)UshuaiaArgentina

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