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Alfonsi E.,University of Western Brittany | Alfonsi E.,Laboratoire dEtude des Mammiferes Marins | Hassani S.,Laboratoire dEtude des Mammiferes Marins | Carpentier F.-G.,University of Western Brittany | And 7 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Field surveys have reported a global shift in harbour porpoise distribution in European waters during the last 15 years, including a return to the Atlantic coasts of France. In this study, we analyzed genetic polymorphisms at a fragment of the mitochondrial control region (mtDNA CR) and 7 nuclear microsatellite loci, for 52 animals stranded and by-caught between 2000 and 2010 along the Atlantic coasts of France. The analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial loci provided contrasting results. The mtDNA revealed two genetically distinct groups, one closely related to the Iberian and African harbour porpoises, and the second related to individuals from the more northern waters of Europe. In contrast, nuclear polymorphisms did not display such a distinction. Nuclear markers suggested that harbour porpoises behaved as a randomly mating population along the Atlantic coasts of France. The difference between the two kinds of markers can be explained by differences in their mode of inheritance, the mtDNA being maternally inherited in contrast to nuclear loci that are bi-parentally inherited. Our results provide evidence that a major proportion of the animals we sampled are admixed individuals from the two genetically distinct populations previously identified along the Iberian coasts and in the North East Atlantic. The French Atlantic coasts are clearly the place where these two previously separated populations of harbour porpoises are now admixing. The present shifts in distribution of harbour porpoises along this coast is likely caused by habitat changes that will need to be further studied. © 2012 Alfonsi et al.

Meheust E.,University of Western Brittany | Meheust E.,Laboratoire dEtude des Mammiferes Marins | Alfonsi E.,University of Western Brittany | Alfonsi E.,Laboratoire dEtude des Mammiferes Marins | And 3 more authors.
Marine Biology Research | Year: 2015

Abstract: In recent decades, grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) have become more numerous along the coasts of Brittany in northwestern France. Their interactions with fisheries are of increasing concern and diet analyses are becoming a requirement to determine the actual overlap between species targeted by fisheries and marine mammal prey. However, as only a few stranded or by-caught animals are available to investigate the diet of these top predators, it is necessary to optimize the results obtained from each animal sampled by increasing the rate of prey species determination in stomach contents. We used a combined analysis of stomach contents, based on prey hard remains and, in parallel, a simple DNA barcoding approach to identify the soft remains. Seven grey seal stomachs and three harbour porpoise stomachs have been analysed. The combined approach, making use of visual observation as well as DNA analysis, increased the identification of prey items by around 32% for grey seal and by 21% for harbour porpoise. Fish species identified include Mediterranean and Atlantic horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus and Trachurus trachurus), Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus), ballan and cuckoo wrasse (Labrus bergylta and Labrus mixtus), European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), Atlantic pollock (Pollachius pollachius), European conger (Conger conger) and garfish (Belone belone). One fish species (L. bergylta) was identified only with DNA methods. An area-specific diet for the grey seal in the Iroise Sea, proposed by others in a previous study, seems to be supported. © 2014, © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

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