Population genetics studies of the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus): A summary and interpretation of results and research needs

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


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A summary of population genetics data is presented for the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus). Current information on the ecology and behavior of the species is highlighted to aid in the interpretation of genetics results and to suggest future areas of research. Walruses are discontinuously distributed across the Arctic and are currently subdivided into six regional populations on the basis of historical distribution and morphology. Few population genetics studies have been conducted on the walrus. Only three of the six trigonal populations have been surveyed with biochemical or molecular techniques. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation among walruses from the northern Pacific (Chukchi Sea) and western Atlantic (Greenland) regions revealed 13 haplotypes; 6 were found only in Pacific walruses while 7 were unique to the Atlantic subspecies. Estimates of sequence divergence between Atlantic and Pacific haplotypes were 1.0%-1.6%. No evidence of microgeographic structuring within the northern Pacific or western Atlantic regional populations was found on the basis of mtDNA haplotype frequency distributions or multilocus minisatellite band sharing. Minisatellite analysis of adult-juvenile and adult-adult pairs suggests that assemblages of walruses on individual ice floes are made up at least in part by groups of related individuals from more than one generation. Furthermore, high mtDNA haplotype diversities and low minisatellite band-sharing values suggest that both the northern Pacific and western Atlantic walruses have retained a high degree of genetic variability.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Population genetics studies of the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus): A summary and interpretation of results and research needs
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher Society for Marine Mammalogy
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Molecular Genetics of Marine Mammals: Special Publication 3
First page 173
Last page 184
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