Seascape Genetics of a Globally Distributed, Highly Mobile Marine Mammal: the Short-Beaked Common Dolphin (Genus Delphinus)

Ana Amaral, Luciano Beheregaray, Kerstin Bilgmann, Dmitri Boutov, Luis Freitas, Kelly Robertson, Marina Sequeira, Karen Stockin, Maria Coelho, Luciana Moller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    61 Citations (Scopus)


    Identifying which factors shape the distribution of intraspecific genetic diversity is central in evolutionary and conservation biology. In the marine realm, the absence of obvious barriers to dispersal can make this task more difficult. Nevertheless, recent studies have provided valuable insights into which factors may be shaping genetic structure in the world's oceans. These studies were, however, generally conducted on marine organisms with larval dispersal. Here, using a seascape genetics approach, we show that marine productivity and sea surface temperature are correlated with genetic structure in a highly mobile, widely distributed marine mammal species, the short-beaked common dolphin. Isolation by distance also appears to influence population divergence over larger geographical scales (i.e. across different ocean basins). We suggest that the relationship between environmental variables and population structure may be caused by prey behaviour, which is believed to determine common dolphins' movement patterns and preferred associations with certain oceanographic conditions. Our study highlights the role of oceanography in shaping genetic structure of a highly mobile and widely distributed top marine predator. Thus, seascape genetic studies can potentially track the biological effects of ongoing climate-change at oceanographic interfaces and also inform marine reserve design in relation to the distribution and genetic connectivity of charismatic and ecologically important megafauna.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere31482
    Pages (from-to)e31482
    Number of pages14
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2012


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