Genetic diversity and structure of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in Australian feeding aggregations

Abstract

The worldwide distribution of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) has not prevented this species from becoming endangered due to twentieth century whaling. In Australia there are two known feeding aggregations of blue whales, which most likely are the pygmy subspecies (B. m. brevicauda). It is unknown whether individuals from these feeding aggregations belong to one breeding stock, or multiple breeding stocks that either share or occupy separate feeding grounds. This was investigated using ten microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA control region sequences (N = 110). Both sets of markers revealed no significant genetic structure, suggesting that these whales are likely to belong to the same breeding stock.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division. Sampling was conducted during a study program funded by the Australian Defence Department and the Australian Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts under animal ethics approval from the Department of Conservation and Land Management Animal Ethics Committee (#CAEC/14/2002), Deakin University Animal Welfare Committee (#A19/2006), and/or Macquarie University Animal Research Authority (#2008/017). Permits were supplied by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (EPBC permits #E2008-0001, #E2003-48230, #E2002-00029) and Department of Sustainability and Environment in Victoria (#10004017).

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Correspondence to Luciana Möller.

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Attard, C.R.M., Beheregaray, L.B., Jenner, C. et al. Genetic diversity and structure of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in Australian feeding aggregations. Conserv Genet 11, 2437–2441 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-010-0121-9

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Keywords

  • Blue whale
  • Balaenoptera musculus
  • Microsatellite
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Australia