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Torres-Florez J.P.,Austral University of Chile | Torres-Florez J.P.,Centro Ballena Azul Blue Whale Center | Torres-Florez J.P.,Federal University of São Carlos | Hucke-Gaete R.,Centro Ballena Azul Blue Whale Center | And 10 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2014

Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) were among the most intensively exploited species of whales in the world. As a consequence of this intense exploitation, blue whale sightings off the coast of Chile were uncommon by the end of the 20th century. In 2004, a feeding and nursing ground was reported in southern Chile (SCh). With the aim to investigate the genetic identity and relationship of these Chilean blue whales to those in other Southern Hemisphere areas, 60 biopsy samples were collected from blue whales in SCh between 2003 and 2009. These samples were genotyped at seven microsatellite loci and the mitochondrial control region was sequenced, allowing us to identify 52 individuals. To investigate the genetic identity of this suspected remnant population, we compared these 52 individuals to blue whales from Antarctica (ANT, n = 96), Northern Chile (NCh, n = 19) and the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP, n = 31). No significant differentiation in haplotype frequencies (mtDNA) or among genotypes (nDNA) was found between SCh, NCh and ETP, while significant differences were found between those three areas and Antarctica for both the mitochondrial and microsatellite analyses. Our results suggest at least two breeding population units or subspecies exist, which is also supported by other lines of evidence such as morphometrics and acoustics. The lack of differences detected between SCh/NCh/ETP areas supports the hypothesis that eastern South Pacific blue whales are using the ETP area as a possible breeding area. Considering the small population sizes previously reported for the SCh area, additional conservation measures and monitoring of this population should be developed and prioritized. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Torres-Florez J.P.,Austral University of Chile | Torres-Florez J.P.,Centro Ballena Azul Blue Whale Center | Hucke-Gaete R.,Austral University of Chile | Hucke-Gaete R.,Centro Ballena Azul Blue Whale Center | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Genetics Resources | Year: 2012

Nine polymorphic microsatellite markers for blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) are developed from, genomic libraries. They are characterized using 32 B. musculus individuals from Southern and Northern Chile population(s). The number of alleles per locus range from 5 to 9. The observed and expected heterozygosities range from 0. 438 to 0. 906 and from 0. 520 to 0. 839, respectively. None loci departed significantly from HWE (P < 0. 05). These microsatellite loci are expected to contribute to reveal blue whale population boundaries, taxonomic status and to improve conservation priorities with the aim to propose management units of B. musculus. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

PubMed | Wildlife Conservation Society, Federal University of São Carlos, Peruvian Center for Cetacean Research, Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Centro Ballena Azul Blue Whale Center
Type: | Journal: Molecular ecology | Year: 2016

Many aspects of blue whale biology are poorly understood. Some of the gaps in our knowledge, such as those regarding their basic taxonomy and seasonal movements, directly affect our ability to monitor and manage blue whale populations. As a step towards filling in some of these gaps, microsatellite and mtDNA sequence analyses were conducted on blue whale samples from the Southern Hemisphere, the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) and the northeast Pacific. The results indicate that the ETP is differentially used by blue whales from the northern and southern eastern Pacific, with the former showing stronger affinity to the region off Central America known as the Costa Rican Dome, and the latter favouring the waters of Peru and Ecuador. Although the pattern of genetic variation throughout the Southern Hemisphere is compatible with the recently proposed subspecies status of Chilean blue whales, some discrepancies remain between catch lengths and lengths from aerial photography, and not all blue whales in Chilean waters can be assumed to be of this type. Also, the range of the proposed Chilean subspecies, which extends to the Galapagos region of the ETP, at least seasonally, perhaps should include the Costa Rican Dome and the eastern North Pacific as well.

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