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, 18 (10), 2112-21

Pleistocene Population Expansions of Antarctic Seals

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Pleistocene Population Expansions of Antarctic Seals

Caitlin Curtis et al. Mol Ecol.

Abstract

We sequenced a portion (c. 475 bp) of the mitochondrial control region of three species of Antarctic phocid carnivores (Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii, N = 181; crabeater seal, Lobodon carcinophaga, N = 143; and Ross seal, Ommatophoca rossii, N = 41) that live seasonally or permanently in the fast ice and seasonal pack ice of the western Amundsen and Ross seas of western Antarctica. We resolved 251 haplotypes with a haplotype diversity of 0.98 to 0.99. Bayesian estimates of Theta from the program LAMARC ranged from 0.075 for Weddell seals to 0.576 for crabeater seals. We used the values of theta to estimate female effective population sizes (N(EF)), which were 40,700 to 63,000 for Weddell seals, 44,400 to 97,800 for Ross seals, and 358,500 to 531,900 for crabeater seals. We used mismatch distributions to test for historical population size expansions. Weddell seals and crabeater seals had significant, unimodal mean pairwise difference distributions (P = 0.56 and 0.36, respectively), suggesting that their populations expanded suddenly around 731,000 years ago (Weddell seals) and around 1.6 million years ago (crabeater seals). Both of these expansions occurred during times of intensified glaciations and may have been fostered by expanding pack ice habitat.

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