Multiple Populations of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins in Hawaiian Waters

Understanding gene flow and dispersal patterns is important for predicting effects of natural events and anthropogenic activities on animal populations. In Hawaii, most species of odontocetes are managed as single populations. Recent exceptions include false killer whales, spinner dolphins, and common bottlenose dolphins, for which studies have shown fidelity to individual islands or groups of islands. Our study focused on pantropical spotted dolphins. We analyzed mitochondrial control region and 11 microsatellite loci from 101 individuals from 4 areas: Hawaii, Maui/Lanai, Oahu, and Kauai/Niihau. We examined FST , FST, RST , Jost‘s D, and Φ ST and used TESS to estimate number of populations and assignment probabilities. Our results support genetic differentiation among Hawaii, Maui/Lanai, and Oahu and suggest that pantropical spotted dolphins near Kauai/Niihau are likely transient and in low numbers. Between island regions, FST for microsatellites ranged from 0.016 to 0.045 and for mtDNA, from 0.011 to 0.282.  FST, ranged from 0.098 to 0.262 for microsatellites and 0.019 to 0.415 for mtDNA. RST and ΦST showed similar results to FST for micro – satellites and mtDNA respectively, and Jost‘s D fell between FST and FST . TESS supported 3 populations, and greatest mean assignment probability by island region ranged from 0.50 to 0.72. The private alleles method indicated migration rates among regions from 1.49 to 3.45, and effective population size of the island of Hawaii was estimated to be 220. There was no strong evidence to support sex-biased dispersal or group fidelity. Considering this study in the larger context of other odontocete population studies and stud – ies of connectivity, we suggest genetic differentiation may be mediated by behavior adapted to differing habitat types and niches.


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Courbis, S., R.W. Baird, F. Cipriano, and D. Duffield. 2014. Multiple Populations of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins in Hawaiian Waters. Journal of Heredity 105(5): 627-641. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esu046

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