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Curr Biol. 2000 Oct 19;10(20):1287-90.

An empirical genetic assessment of the severity of the northern elephant seal population bottleneck.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, 12222, USA.

Abstract

A bottleneck in population size of a species is often correlated with a sharp reduction in genetic variation. The northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) has undergone at least one extreme bottleneck, having rebounded from 20-100 individuals a century ago to over 175,000 individuals today. The relative lack of molecular-genetic variation in contemporary populations has been documented, but the extent of variation before the late 19th century remains unknown. We have determined the nucleotide sequence of a 179 base-pair segment of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region from seals that lived before, during and after a bottleneck low in 1892. A 'primerless' PCR was used to improve the recovery of information from older samples. Only two mtDNA genotypes were present in all 150+ seals from the 1892 bottleneck on, but we discovered four genotypes in five pre-bottleneck seals. This suggests a much greater amount of mtDNA genotypic variation before this bottleneck, and that the persistence of two genotypes today is a consequence of random lineage sampling. We cannot correlate the loss of mtDNA genotypes with a lowered mean fitness of individuals in the species today. However, we show that the species historically possessed additional genotypes to those present now, and that sampling of ancient DNA could elucidate the genetic consequences of severe reductions in population size.

PMID:
11069110
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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