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Louis M.,CNRS Chize Center for Biological Studies | Louis M.,CNRS Coastal and Marine Environment Laboratory | Louis M.,GECC Groupe dEtude des Cetaces du Cotentin | Viricel A.,CNRS Coastal and Marine Environment Laboratory | And 19 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2014

Despite no obvious barrier to gene flow, historical environmental processes and ecological specializations can lead to genetic differentiation in highly mobile animals. Ecotypes emerged in several large mammal species as a result of niche specializations and/or social organization. In the North-West Atlantic, two distinct bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) ecotypes (i.e. 'coastal' and 'pelagic') have been identified. Here, we investigated the genetic population structure of North-East Atlantic (NEA) bottlenose dolphins on a large scale through the analysis of 381 biopsy-sampled or stranded animals using 25 microsatellites and a 682-bp portion of the mitochondrial control region. We shed light on the likely origin of stranded animals using a carcass drift prediction model. We showed, for the first time, that coastal and pelagic bottlenose dolphins were highly differentiated in the NEA. Finer-scale population structure was found within the two groups. We suggest that distinct founding events followed by parallel adaptation may have occurred independently from a large Atlantic pelagic population in the two sides of the basin. Divergence could be maintained by philopatry possibly as a result of foraging specializations and social organization. As coastal environments are under increasing anthropogenic pressures, small and isolated populations might be at risk and require appropriate conservation policies to preserve their habitats. While genetics can be a powerful first step to delineate ecotypes in protected and difficult to access taxa, ecotype distinction should be further documented through diet studies and the examination of cranial skull features associated with feeding. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Esteban R.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Verborgh P.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Gauffier P.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Gimenez J.,CSIC - Donana Biological Station | And 11 more authors.
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2016

A key goal for wildlife managers is identifying discrete, demographically independent conservation units. Previous genetic work assigned killer whales that occur seasonally in the Strait of Gibraltar (SoG) and killer whales sampled off the Canary Islands (CI) to the same population. Here we present new analyses of photo-identification and individual genotypes to assess the level of contemporary gene flow and migration between study areas, and analyses of biomarkers to assess ecological differences. We identified 47 different individuals from 5 pods in the SoG and 16 individuals in the CI, with no matches found between the areas. Mitochondrial DNA control region haplotype was shared by all individuals sampled within each pod, suggesting that pods have a matrifocal social structure typical of this species, whilst the lack of shared mitogenome haplotypes between the CI and SoG individuals suggests that there was little or no female migration between groups. Kinship analysis detected no close kin between CI and SoG individuals, and low to zero contemporary gene flow. Isotopic values and organochlorine pollutant loads also suggest ecological differences between study areas. We further found that one individual from a pod within the SoG not seen in association with the other four pods and identified as belonging to a potential migrant lineage by genetic analyses, had intermediate isotopic values and contaminant between the two study areas. Overall our results suggest a complex pattern of social and genetic structuring correlated with ecological variation. Consequently at least CI and SoG should be considered as two different management units. Understanding this complexity appears to be an important consideration when monitoring and understanding the viability of these management units. Understand the viability will help the conservation of these threatened management units. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Esteban R.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Verborgh P.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Gauffier P.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Gimenez J.,CSIC - Donana Biological Station | And 3 more authors.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology | Year: 2016

The primary prey of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Strait of Gibraltar is the bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). All killer whales observed in this area hunt tuna by chasing individual fish until they become exhausted and can be overcome. However, a subset of pods also interact with a dropline tuna fishery which has developed since 1995. Here, we investigated the social structure within and among social units (pods). Our data suggested that social structure was shaped by maternal kinship, which appears to be a species-specific trait, but also by foraging behavior, which is less common at the intra-population level. At the start of the study, only one cohesive pod interacted with the fishery, which during the course of the study underwent fission into two socially differentiated pods. Social structure within these two fishery-interacting pods was more compact and homogenous with stronger associations between individuals than in the rest of the population. Three other pods were never seen interacting with the fishery, despite one of these pods being regularly sighted in the area of the fishery during the summer. Sociality can influence the spread of the novel foraging behaviors and may drive population fragmentation, which, in this example, is already a critically small community. Observations of social changes in relation to changes in foraging at the earliest stages of diversification in foraging behavior and social segregation may provide insights into the processes that ultimately result in the formation of socially isolated discrete ecotypes in killer whales. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Jepson P.D.,UK Institute of Zoology | Deaville R.,UK Institute of Zoology | Barber J.L.,Center for Environment | Aguilar A.,University of Barcelona | And 29 more authors.
Scientific Reports | Year: 2016

Organochlorine (OC) pesticides and the more persistent polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have well-established dose-dependent toxicities to birds, fish and mammals in experimental studies, but the actual impact of OC pollutants on European marine top predators remains unknown. Here we show that several cetacean species have very high mean blubber PCB concentrations likely to cause population declines and suppress population recovery. In a large pan-European meta-analysis of stranded (n = 929) or biopsied (n = 152) cetaceans, three out of four species:- striped dolphins (SDs), bottlenose dolphins (BNDs) and killer whales (KWs) had mean PCB levels that markedly exceeded all known marine mammal PCB toxicity thresholds. Some locations (e.g. western Mediterranean Sea, south-west Iberian Peninsula) are global PCB "hotspots" for marine mammals. Blubber PCB concentrations initially declined following a mid-1980s EU ban, but have since stabilised in UK harbour porpoises and SDs in the western Mediterranean Sea. Some small or declining populations of BNDs and KWs in the NE Atlantic were associated with low recruitment, consistent with PCB-induced reproductive toxicity. Despite regulations and mitigation measures to reduce PCB pollution, their biomagnification in marine food webs continues to cause severe impacts among cetacean top predators in European seas. © 2016, Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Perez S.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | Garcia-Lopez A.,Institute Ciencias Marinas Of Andalucia | De Stephanis R.,CSIC - Donana Biological Station | Gimenez J.,Information and Research on Cetaceans | And 4 more authors.
Marine Biology | Year: 2011

We tested the possibility of measuring progesterone levels in bubbler samples collected from free-ranging live bottlenose dolphins (n = 11) and long-finned pilot whales (n = 2) as a tool to evaluate the pregnancy status of individuals. Samples were collected during January 2004 and September-October 2005 in the Strait of Gibraltar and Gulf of Cadiz and used for sex-determination by genetic methods (skin samples) and for quantification of progesterone levels by enzyme immunoassay. Photo-identification tracking of females after taking the biopsy was used to observe the presence of newborns and, in this way, to determine if the female was pregnant at the time of sampling. Mean progesterone levels from pregnant bottlenose dolphins (n = 2) were around 9 times higher than those from non-pregnant females (n = 9), with no overlap between concentration ranges demonstrating that this method could constitute an effective tool for determining pregnancy in wild populations of bottlenose dolphins and other cetacean species. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

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