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A European Melting Pot of Harbour Porpoise in the French Atlantic Coasts Inferred from Mitochondrial and Nuclear Data

Abstract : 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.
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Eric Alfonsi, Sami Hassani, François-Gilles Carpentier, Jean-Yves Le Clec'H, Willy Dabin, et al.. A European Melting Pot of Harbour Porpoise in the French Atlantic Coasts Inferred from Mitochondrial and Nuclear Data. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2012, 7 (9), pp.e44425. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0044425.t001⟩. ⟨hal-01066281⟩

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