The existence of three distinct populations is widely accepted for the finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) in Chinese waters: the Yellow Sea, Yangtze River, and South China Sea populations. Here, we use nine species-specific microsatellite loci, the complete mitochondrial DNA control region (912 bp), and the complete mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (1,140 bp) to further investigate potential population stratification in the Yellow Sea using 147 finless porpoise samples from the Bohai Sea and adjacent northern Yellow Sea, two regions that were largely underrepresented in previous genetic studies. Our F-statistics analyses confirm the previously described three populations, but further demonstrate significant genetic differentiation between the [Bohai + northern Yellow] Sea and the southern Yellow Sea. On the other hand, median-joining network analyses do not exhibit well-differentiated haplotype groups among different geographic populations, suggesting the existence of shared ancestral haplotypes. Levels of microsatellite diversity are moderate to high (mean HE = 0.794) among the 147 [Bohai + northern Yellow] Sea finless porpoises and no recent bottleneck was detected, whereas mtDNA control region and cytochrome b gene diversity is low to moderate. The microsatellite genotypic and mtDNA haplotypic data also confirm the presence of mother-calf pairs in single-net bycatch cases. The results presented here highlight the necessity to treat the [Bohai + northern Yellow] Sea population (highly impacted by anthropogenic threats) as a separate Management Unit.
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