Conservation Genetics

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 375–383 | Cite as

A comparison of genetic diversity between the Galápagos Penguin and the Magellanic Penguin

  • Elaine P. Akst
  • P. Dee Boersma
  • Robert C. Fleischer


The Galápagos Penguin (Spheniscusmendiculus) is a United States federallylisted endangered species with populations onthe Galápagos Islands of Fernandina andIsabela. Although the waters around theislands are normally productive, lowproductivity during El Niño years resultsin high adult penguin mortality and lowrecruitment in following years. We usedmicrosatellite markers developed for Spheniscus penguins to study the long termgenetic effects of serial bottleneck events inthe Galápagos Penguin, and compared thisvariation to that of its congener, theMagellanic penguin (Spheniscusmagellanicus). The observed heterozygosityfor the Galápagos Penguin was 3%,significantly lower than the 46%heterozygosity of the Magellanic Penguin. Thislow level of heterozygosity is directly relatedto its low effective population size. Whilethis population has survived long term,presumably without high levels of geneticvariation, we feel that the greater frequencyof El Niño events, coupled with increasedhuman impacts such as introduced disease, oildischarge, and competition with fisheries, mayput the species in particular danger ofextinction.

bottleneck El Niño endangered microsatellite penguin Spheniscus 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine P. Akst
    • 1
  • P. Dee Boersma
    • 3
  • Robert C. Fleischer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege Park
  2. 2.Genetics Program, Systematic BiologyNational Museum of Natural HistoryWashington, DCUSA (Author for correspondence: E-mail
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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