Population genomics of finless porpoises reveal an incipient cetacean species adapted to freshwater

Nat Commun. 2018 Apr 10;9(1):1276. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03722-x.


Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are a group of mammals adapted to various aquatic habitats, from oceans to freshwater rivers. We report the sequencing, de novo assembly and analysis of a finless porpoise genome, and the re-sequencing of an additional 48 finless porpoise individuals. We use these data to reconstruct the demographic history of finless porpoises from their origin to the occupation into the Yangtze River. Analyses of selection between marine and freshwater porpoises identify genes associated with renal water homeostasis and urea cycle, such as urea transporter 2 and angiotensin I-converting enzyme 2, which are likely adaptations associated with the difference in osmotic stress between ocean and rivers. Our results strongly suggest that the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoises are reproductively isolated from other porpoise populations and harbor unique genetic adaptations, supporting that they should be considered a unique incipient species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • China
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Genome*
  • Metagenomics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Porpoises / classification
  • Porpoises / genetics*
  • Reproductive Isolation
  • Rivers
  • Seawater
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance