From conservation genetics to conservation genomics: a genome-wide assessment of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in Australian feeding aggregations

Catherine R.M. Attard, Luciano B. Beheregaray, Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, K. Curt S. Jenner, Peter C. Gill, Micheline-Nicole M. Jenner, Margaret G. Morrice, Luciana M. Möller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Genetic datasets of tens of markers have been superseded through next-generation sequencing technology with genome-wide datasets of thousands of markers. Genomic datasets improve our power to detect low population structure and identify adaptive divergence. The increased population-level knowledge can inform the conservation management of endangered species, such as the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). In Australia, there are two known feeding aggregations of the pygmy blue whale (B. m. brevicauda) which have shown no evidence of genetic structure based on a small dataset of 10 microsatellites and mtDNA. Here, we develop and implement a high-resolution dataset of 8294 genome-wide filtered single nucleotide polymorphisms, the first of its kind for blue whales. We use these data to assess whether the Australian feeding aggregations constitute one population and to test for the first time whether there is adaptive divergence between the feeding aggregations. We found no evidence of neutral population structure and negligible evidence of adaptive divergence. We propose that individuals likely travel widely between feeding areas and to breeding areas, which would require them to be adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. This has important implications for their conservation as this blue whale population is likely vulnerable to a range of anthropogenic threats both off Australia and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170925
Number of pages11
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Keywords

  • Cetaceans
  • Double-digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing
  • Ecological genomics
  • Molecular ecology
  • Non-model organism
  • Population genomics

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