Preliminary genetic status of the spotted seal Phoca largha in Liaodong Bay (China) based on microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analyses


Submitted: 11 February 2010
Accepted: 18 July 2010
Published: 3 August 2010
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The Liaodong Bay spotted seal (Phoca largha) population experienced several drastic declines in the last 80 years. Recent studies are contradictory regarding the level of genetic diversity and population structure of P. largha, possibly because of the use of non-species-specific nuclear markers. Here, we report on i) the first isolation and character­ization of 10 species-specific polymorphic microsatellite loci for the spotted seal, ii) sequences of a 572 bp mtDNA fragment in 25 Liaodong Bay individuals that we analyzed together with all published haplotypes from Liaodong Bay and Japan. Intermediate genetic diversity in microsatellite loci was found in the Liaodong Bay population and the effective popu­lation size estimates were 41.8 to 86.8 individuals. Low mtDNA genetic variability, especially nucleotide diversity, in the Liaodong Bay population was detected, but Bayesian skyline plots did not show any evidence of recent bottleneck. Both F-statistics and the haplotypic network indicate a clear differentiation between the Liaodong Bay and Japanese populations separated by a fixed mutation. Analysis of mtDNA data indicates that Liaodong Bay female seals show fidelity to their breeding site, and breeding time data suggest that this population is reproductively isolated from popu­lations in other breeding areas. The observed low genetic diversity in mtDNA and the intermediate levels of nuclear microsatellite diversity, combined with the potential genetic isolation, suggest that the Liaodong Bay population might be at risk and that further investigation of the population genetics of spotted seals across their whole range is warranted for proper management of the species.

Xiang Li, University of Namur (FUNDP)
PhD student in the department of Biology (FUNDP)
Athanasia C. Tzika, University of Geneva
Post-doctoral fellow in the department of zoology and animal biology (University of Geneva)
Yingying Liu, Shandong University
PhD student at the Ocean College, Shandong University
Karine Van Doninck, University of Namur (FUNDP)
Professor in the department of Biology (FUNDP)
Qian Zhu, Third Institute of Oceanography

Professor at the Third Institute of Oceanography (State Oceanic Administration, China)

Michel C. Milinkovitch, University of Geneva
Professor in the department of zoology and animal biology (University of Geneva)

Supporting Agencies

Shandong Natural Science Foundation, Third Institute of Oceanography, University of Geneva, Georges & Antoine Claraz Foundation (Switzerland), Ernst & Lucie Schmidheiny Foundation (Switzerland), National Fund for Scientific Research Belgium (FNRS)

Li, X., Tzika, A. C., Liu, Y., Van Doninck, K., Zhu, Q., & Milinkovitch, M. C. (2010). Preliminary genetic status of the spotted seal Phoca largha in Liaodong Bay (China) based on microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analyses. Trends in Evolutionary Biology, 2(1), e6. https://doi.org/10.4081/eb.2010.e6

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