Population genetic studies of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris): A review and interpretation of available data

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Edited by: Andrew E. DixonSusan J. Chivers, and William F. Perrin


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Current information about the utility of genetic markers for estimating population structuring in sea otters (Enhydra lutris) is reviewed. Analyses of spatial population structuring with biochemical and molecular genetic markers are discussed in the context of the species' ecology and history of exploitation. Studies that have used a diversity of genetic markers including allozymes, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and multilocus minisatellites revealed that geographically spearated populations of sea otters are highly differentiated, though little evidence for phylogeographic structuring was suggested. Analyses of population relationships based on mtDNA haplotype frequency distribution suggested that populations can be separated into four major groups: (1) California; (2) Prince William Sound, Alaska; (3) Kodiak Island, Alaska, and islands of the Aleutian archipelago, including the Commander Islands; and (4) the Kuril Islands. Populations from locales separated by large geographic distances often shared haplotypes, suggesting recent common ancestry and some degree of historical gene flow. THe large differences among populations in nuclear and mtDNA gene frequency suggested strong constrains on contemporary gene flow and/or considerable drift in gene frequencies due to population bottlenecks. No evidence for microgeographic structuring was noted. Levels of genetic diversity within populations varied greatly across the species range but were not related to contemporary estimates of population size.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Population genetic studies of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris): A review and interpretation of available data
ISBN 9780935868920
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher Society for Marine Mammalogy
Publisher location Lawrence, KS
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Molecular genetics of marine mammals: Incorporating the proceedings of a workshop on the analysis of genetic data to address problems of stock identity as related to management of marine mammals
First page 197
Last page 208
Public Comments Society for Marine Mammology Special Publication no. 3
Conference Title Workshop on the Analysis of Genetic Data to Address Problems of Stock Identity as Related to Management of Marine Mammals
Conference Location La Jolla, CA
Conference Date September 1994
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