Seascape genomics of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) reveals adaptive diversity linked to regional and local oceanography

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Background: High levels of standing genomic variation in wide-ranging marine species may enhance prospects for their long-term persistence. Patterns of connectivity and adaptation in such species are often thought to be influenced by spatial factors, environmental heterogeneity, and oceanographic and geomorphological features. Population-level studies that analytically integrate genome-wide data with environmental information (i.e., seascape genomics) have the potential to inform the spatial distribution of adaptive diversity in wide-ranging marine species, such as many marine mammals. We assessed genotype-environment associations (GEAs) in 214 common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) along > 3000 km of the southern coast of Australia. 

Results: We identified 747 candidate adaptive SNPs out of a filtered panel of 17,327 SNPs, and five putatively locally-adapted populations with high levels of standing genomic variation were disclosed along environmentally heterogeneous coasts. Current velocity, sea surface temperature, salinity, and primary productivity were the key environmental variables associated with genomic variation. These environmental variables are in turn related to three main oceanographic phenomena that are likely affecting the dispersal of common dolphins: (1) regional oceanographic circulation, (2) localised and seasonal upwellings, and (3) seasonal on-shelf circulation in protected coastal habitats. Signals of selection at exonic gene regions suggest that adaptive divergence is related to important metabolic traits. 

Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this represents the first seascape genomics study for common dolphins (genus Delphinus). Information from the associations between populations and their environment can assist population management in forecasting the adaptive capacity of common dolphins to climate change and other anthropogenic impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88
Number of pages18
JournalBMC Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2022


  • Adaptive resilience
  • Conservation genomics
  • ddRAD-seq
  • Delphinids
  • Landscape genomics


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