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A genetic analysis of the beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas (Cetacea: Monodontidae) from summer aggregations in the Russian Far East

Abstract

The genetic structure of four summer aggregations of the Beluga Whale, Delphinapterus leucas, in Sakhalin Bay and Udskaya Bay, off the western coast of Kamchatka in the Sea of Okhotsk and in the Anadyr Estuary of the Bering Sea was analyzed through nucleotide sequencing of the mtDNA control region and detection of the allelic composition of nine microsatellite loci in nuclear DNA. It has been shown that each of the aggregations features a unique set of maternal lines, which indicates a high degree of philopatry in this species. Beluga whales of the Anadyr Estuary are genetically isolated from those of the Sea of Okhotsk. Beluga whales of the summer aggregations of Sakhalin Bay and those from Udskaya Bay share a common gene pool and belong to a single population, while the whales that summer off western Kamchatka with great consistency may be attributed to a different population. Comparison of nucleotide sequences of the mtDNA in beluga whales from various waters of the Russian Far East and North America allowed us to propose a hypothesis about how the structure of beluga whale populations formed in the North Pacific during the postglacial period.

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Correspondence to I. G. Meschersky.

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Original Russian Text © I.G. Meschersky, O.V. Shpak, D.I. Litovka, D.M. Glazov, E.A. Borisova, V.V. Rozhnov, 2013, published in Biologiya Morya.

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Meschersky, I.G., Shpak, O.V., Litovka, D.I. et al. A genetic analysis of the beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas (Cetacea: Monodontidae) from summer aggregations in the Russian Far East. Russ J Mar Biol 39, 125–135 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1134/S1063074013020065

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1134/S1063074013020065

Keywords

  • Beluga Whale
  • Delphinapterus leucas
  • population structure
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • microsatellite loci