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Conservation Genetics

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 117–128 | Cite as

Postglacial loss of microsatellite variation in the landlocked Lake Saimaa ringed seal

  • J.U. Palo
  • H. Hyvärinen
  • E. Helle
  • H.S. Mäkinen
  • R. Väinölä
Article

Abstract

The Lake Saimaa ringed sealPhoca hispida saimensis has lived as anisolated landlocked population in easternFinland since the early post-glacial. In thelast century, the population crashed down to c.200 individuals, and is under a constant threatof extinction. We evaluated the genetic historyof the Saimaa population through a comparisonwith the conspecific sister populations in theArctic Ocean and the Baltic Sea, which haveretained high levels of variation since thedeglaciation. At eight microsatellite loci, thecurrent gene diversity (heterozygosity) of theSaimaa seal was 69% lower than in thereference populations. Allowing reasonablemutation rates (μ = 10−4), thisimplies a long-term post-glacial effectivepopulation size of Ne ≃ 350,and a slow average rate of inbreeding ΔF≃ 0.15% per generation during the c.860 generations (9 500 years) of isolation. Thecurrent Ne is an order of magnitudesmaller and ΔF correspondinglylarger. Whereas the additional loss of markervariation in the short term will not be highrelative to that already taken place, it seemsunwarranted to suppose that the past, slowinbreeding would have effectively purged thepopulation of genetic load and reduced thegenetic risks from small population size.Although the population is now clearlygeographically subdivided in the complex lakesystem, we found little genetic differentiationbetween main breeding areas (FST =0.02). However, at the current low populationdensities, the subdivision may markedly furtherincrease the future rate of inbreeding.

effective population size inbreeding microsatellite variation Phoca hispida saimensis postglacial isolation 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.U. Palo
    • 1
  • H. Hyvärinen
    • 2
  • E. Helle
    • 3
  • H.S. Mäkinen
    • 1
  • R. Väinölä
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Systematics, Division of Population Biology, POB 65FIN-00014 University of HelsinkiFinland;
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of JoensuuFinland
  3. 3.Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, POB 6HelsinkiFinland

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