Stock Structure and Genetics

Principal Investigator: J. Craig George, Ph.D.
Collaborators: John Bickham (Purdue University), Phil Morin (NMFS), Geof Givens (Colorado State University)
Funding: NSB, NOAA, AEWC
Publications

Summary:

At the 2002 IWC meetings, the genetic structure of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea bowhead population was brought into question. Several scientists suggested that the BCB population could have been made up of several genetically distinct stocks. At the time the management of the BCB bowhead whales was based on the single stock hypothesis meaning that they were of one genetic, interbreeding population.

Preliminary genetic studies suggested that the BCB population could be made up of two or more stocks. If this were the case, then the management strategy might need to be altered, which could have affected the quota. Continued studies tested the multiple stock hypothesis. At the 2007 IWC meeting over 40 scientific papers were reviewed, including genetics, traditional knowledge, migration patterns and other studies. Due to the "weight of evidence" of all of the studies, especially genetics, the Scientific Committee agreed that “the available evidence best supports a single stock hypothesis for BCB bowhead whales.” This information was good news for the AEWC as it meant that the current management strategy was sufficient and that the bowhead quota for 2008-2012 was maintained.

Merlin Koonooka drilling a bowhead skull to collect tissue for genetics analysis. This bowhead whale was taken at Gambell, Alaska, and the sample collected was used in a

Merlin Koonooka drilling a bowhead skull to collect tissue for genetics analysis. This bowhead whale was taken at Gambell, Alaska, and the sample collected was used in a "stock structure" DNA study to determine if whales harvested at St. Lawrence Island might be genetically different from those taken at Barrow. The results suggested that the harvested whales from the two locations are from the same genetic stock.

Journal articles and reports on genetics and stock structure of bowhead whales:

Rooney, A.P. et al. 2001. Historical population size change of bowhead whales inferred from DNA sequence polymorphism data. Evolution 55(8):1678-1685.

LeDuc, R.G. et al. 2005. Genetic analyses (mtDNA and microsatellites) of Okhotsk and Bering/Chukchi/Beaufort Seas populations of bowhead whales. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 7(2):107-111.

George, J.C. S.E. Moore., and R. Suydam. 2007. Summary of stock structure research on the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales 2003-2007. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG3.

George, J.C. et al. 2007. Preliminary estimates of bowhead whale body mass and length from Yankee commercial oil yield records. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG5.

Givens, G.H. et al. 2007. Patterns of genetic differentiation in bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) from the western Arctic. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG14.

Givens, G.H. and I. Ozaksoy. 2007. Population structure and covariate analysis based on pairwise microsatellite allele matching frequencies. Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology 6(1): Article 31.

Koski, W.R., J.C. George, and J. Zeh. 2007. A calf index for monitoring reproductive success in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) population. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG7.

Morin, P. B.L. Hancock, and J.C. George. 2007. Development and application of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for bowhead whale population structure analysis. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG8.

Morin, P.A. et al. 2007. Estimated genotype error rates from bowhead whale microsatellite data. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG15.

Skaug, H.J. and G.H. Givens. 2007. Relatedness among individuals in BCB bowhead microsatellite samples. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG20.

Taylor, B.L. et al. 2007. Synthesis of lines of evidence for population structure for bowhead whales in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort region. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG35.

Huebinger, R.M. et al. 2008. Characterization of 25 microsatellite loci in bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). Molecular Ecology Resources 8:612-615.

LeDuc, R.G. et al. 2008. Mitochondrial genetic variation in bowhead whales in the western Arctic. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 10(2):93-97.

Bickham, J.W. et al. 2009. Assessing molecular substitution patterns in the mitochondrial control region compared to protein coding genes in two marine mammals. Presented to the 61st International Whaling Commission.SC/61/BRG7.

Morin, P.A. et al. 2009. Significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium caused by low levels of microsatellite genotyping errors. Molecular Ecology Resources 9:498-504.

Givens, G.H., et al. 2010. Population genetics of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the western Arctic. Arctic, 63:1-12.

Phillips, C. D. et al. 2012. Molecular insights into the historic demography of bowhead whales: understanding the evolutionary basis of contemporary management practices. Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.374.

Bickham, J.W., et al. 2014. Genome size of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus). Presented to the 65th International Whaling Commission. SC/65b/BRG04.

Keane, M., et al. 2014. Insights into the evolution of longevity from the Bowhead Whale Genome. Cell Reports 10:112-122. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.008.

Seim, I., et al. 2014. The transcriptome of the bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus reveals adaptations of the longest-lived mammal. Aging 6(10):879-899.

Baird, A.B., et al. 2015. Continued development of mtDNA and SNP databases for bowhead whales. Presented to the 66th International Whaling Commission. SC/66a/BRG12.

Banner photo credit: Kate Stafford