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Maron C.F.,University of Utah | Maron C.F.,Institute Conservacion Of Ballenas | Beltramino L.,Programa de Monitoreo Sanitario Ballena Franca Austral | Di Martino M.,Programa de Monitoreo Sanitario Ballena Franca Austral | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

At least 626 southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) calves died at the Península Valdés calving ground, Argentina, between 2003 and 2014. Intense gull harassment may have contributed to these deaths. In the 1970s, Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) began feeding on skin and blubber pecked from the backs of living right whales at Valdés. The frequency of gull attacks has increased dramatically over the last three decades and mother-calf pairs are the primary targets. Pairs attacked by gulls spend less time nursing, resting and playing than pairs not under attack. In successive attacks, gulls open new lesions on the whales' backs or enlarge preexisting ones. Increased wounding could potentially lead to dehydration, impaired thermoregulation, and energy loss to wound healing. The presence, number and total area of gull-inflicted lesions were assessed using aerial survey photographs of living mother-calf pairs in 1974-2011 (n = 2680) and stranding photographs of dead calves (n = 192) in 2003-2011. The percentage of living mothers and calves with gull lesions increased from an average of 2% in the 1970s to 99% in the 2000s. In the 1980s and 1990s, mothers and calves had roughly equal numbers of lesions (one to five), but by the 2000s, calves had more lesions (nine or more) covering a greater area of their backs compared to their mothers. Living mother-calf pairs and dead calves in Golfo Nuevo had more lesions than those in Golfo San José in the 2000s. The number and area of lesions increased with calf age during the calving season. Intensified Kelp Gull harassment at Península Valdés could be compromising calf health and thereby contributing to the high average rate of calf mortality observed in recent years, but it cannot explain the large year-to-year variance in calf deaths since 2000. © 2015 Marón et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Source

Seger J.,University of Utah | Smith W.A.,University of Utah | Perry J.J.,University of Utah | Hunn J.,University of Utah | And 7 more authors.
Genetics | Year: 2010

Neutral nucleotide diversity does not scale with population size as expected, and this "paradox of variation" is especially severe for animal mitochondria. Adaptive selective sweeps are often proposed as a major cause, but a plausible alternative is selection against large numbers of weakly deleterious mutations subject to Hill-Robertson interference. The mitochondrial genealogies of several species of whale lice (Amphipoda: Cyamus) are consistently too short relative to neutral-theory expectations, and they are also distorted in shape (branch-length proportions) and topology (relative sister-clade sizes). This pattern is not easily explained by adaptive sweeps or demographic history, but it can be reproduced in models of interference among forward and back mutations at large numbers of sites on a nonrecombining chromosome. A coalescent simulation algorithm was used to study this model over a wide range of parameter values. The genealogical distortions are all maximized when the selection coefficients are of critical intermediate sizes, such that Muller's ratchet begins to turn. In this regime, linked neutral nucleotide diversity becomes nearly insensitive to N. Mutations of this size dominate the dynamics even if there are also large numbers of more strongly and more weakly selected sites in the genome. A genealogical perspective on Hill-Robertson interference leads directly to a generalized background-selection model in which the effective population size is progressively reduced going back in time from the present. Copyright © 2010 by the Genetics Society of America. Source

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