Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate nearly 10,000 km each year between summer feeding grounds in temperate or near-polar waters and winter breeding grounds in shallow tropical waters. Observations of marked individuals suggest that major oceanic populations of humpback whales are divided into a number of distinct seasonal subpopulations which are not separated by obvious geographic barriers. To test whether these observed patterns of distribution and migration are reflected in the genetic structure of populations, we looked for variation in the mitochondrial DNA of 84 individual humpback whales on different feeding and wintering grounds of the North Pacific and western North Atlantic oceans. On the basis of restriction-fragment analysis, we now report a marked segregation of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes among subpopulations as well as between the two oceans. We interpret this segregation to be the consequence of maternally directed fidelity to migratory destinations.
Baker, C.S., S.R. Palumbi, R.H. Lambertson, M.T. Weinrich, J. Calambokidis, and S.J. O’Brien. 1990. Influence of seasonal migration on geographic distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes in humpback whales. Nature, London 344:238-240.