Revision of Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus (Linnaeus, 1758) Subspecies Using Genetic

Three subspecies of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are currently recognized, including the northern fin whale (B. p. physalus), the southern fin whale (B. p. quoyi), and the pygmy fin whale (B. p. patachonica). The Northern Hemisphere subspecies encompasses fin whales in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. A recent analysis of 154 mitogenome sequences of fin whales from these two ocean basins and the Southern Hemisphere suggested that the North Pacific and North Atlantic populations should be treated as different subspecies. Using these mitogenome sequences, in this study, we conduct analyses on a larger mtDNA control region data set, and on 23 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 144 of the 154 samples in the mitogenome data set. Our results reveal that North Pacific and North Atlantic fin whales can be correctly assigned to their ocean basin with 99% accuracy. Results of the SNP analysis indicate a correct classification rate of 95%, very low rates of gene flow among ocean basins, and that distinct mitogenome matrilines in the North Pacific are interbreeding. These results indicate that North Pacific fin whales should be recognized as a separate subspecies, with the name B. p. velifera Cope in Scammon 1869 as the oldest available name.


Archer, F.I., R.L. Brownell Jr., B.L. Hancock-Hanser, P.A. Morin, K.M. Robertson, K.K. Sherman, J. Calambokidis, J. Urbán R., P.E. Rosel, S.A. Mizroch, S. Panigada, and B.L. Taylor. 2019. Revision of Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus (Linneaus, 1758) Subspecies Using Genetics. Journal of Mammalogy 100(5): 1653-1670. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyz121

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