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J Hered. 2007 Mar-Apr;98(2):147-57. Epub 2007 Apr 8.

Mitochondrial DNA diversity and population structure among southern right whales (Eubalaena australis).

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


The population structure and mitochondrial (mt) DNA diversity of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) are described from 146 individuals sampled on 4 winter calving grounds (Argentina, South Africa, Western Australia, and the New Zealand sub-Antarctic) and 2 summer feeding grounds (South Georgia and south of Western Australia). Based on a consensus region of 275 base pairs of the mtDNA control region, 37 variable sites defined 37 unique haplotypes, of which only one was shared between regional samples of the Indo-Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans. Phylogenetic reconstruction of the southern right whale haplotypes revealed 2 distinct clades that differed significantly in frequencies between oceans. An analysis of molecular variance confirmed significant overall differentiation among the 4 calving grounds at both the haplotype and the nucleotype levels (F(ST) = 0.159; Phi(ST) = 0.238; P < 0.001). Haplotype diversity was significantly lower in the Indo-Pacific (h = 0.701 +/- 0.037) compared with the South Atlantic (h = 0.948 +/- 0.013), despite a longer history of exploitation and larger catches in the South Atlantic. In fact, the haplotype diversity in the Indo-Pacific basin was similar to that of the North Atlantic right whale that currently numbers about 300 animals. Multidimensional scaling of genetic differentiation suggests that gene flow occurred primarily between adjacent calving grounds within an ocean basin, with mixing of lineages from different calving grounds occurring on feeding grounds.

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