Navigation Links
Paternity testing helps fill in family tree for Puget Sound's killer whales
Date:7/21/2011

In a study published online this month in the Journal of Heredity, NOAA researchers and others, using DNA testing to fill in a missing link in the lives of killer whales that seasonally visit Washington's Puget Sound, have discovered that some of the progeny they studied were the result of matings within the same social subgroups, or pods, that are part of the overall population.

One implication of this inbreeding behavior is a significant reduction in the genetic diversity of what is already a perilously small population of animals, formally known as Southern Resident killer whales. That population numbers only about 85 animals and was listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2005.

Southern resident killer whales, which also visit the waters of British Columbia and are occasionally found as far south as Monterey Bay, Calif., consist of three pods called J, K and L pod. Inter-pod mating has never been detected in studies of Northern Resident killer whales, which range from Washington to southern Alaska, and until now researchers assumed that Southern Residents exhibited similar mating patterns. The two populations are distinct and do not socialize with each other.

The study, titled "Inferred paternity and male reproductive success in a killer whale (Orcinus orca) population," involved researchers from NOAA's Fisheries Service, the University of Washington, Cascadia Research Collective and the Center for Whale Research.

"We were surprised that, in many cases, the father was from the same pod as the mother. Based on earlier studies, we didn't think killer whales mated within their own pod," said Dr. Michael Ford, lead author of the study and a scientist with NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

"This behavior may be unique to the Southern Resident population, perhaps related to the population's small size," Ford added.

The researchers analyzed 78 individuals for 26 different genetic markers, or DNA fingerprints, and inferred the paternity for 15 mother-calf pairs. The study found no evidence that Southern Residents mate outside their population, but clear evidence that they do sometimes mate with members of their own pod.

"Even though some of the fathers were in the same pod as the mothers, none of them were really closely related to each other. Our results suggest that Southern Residents avoid mating with their siblings or parents, but we aren't really sure of the social process that results in this avoidance," Ford said.

Compared to many mammalian species, males within the Southern Resident community were also found to have a relatively low variance of reproductive success, meaning several males are responsible for offspring production in the population rather than just one or two. This contrasts with some other marine mammals like elephant seals, where a handful of males completely dominate the breeding and may reflect the difficulty male killer whales have in controlling other males' access to females.

However, the study also revealed that the older and larger males appeared to be responsible for most of the successful matings, indicating that females may choose to mate only with older males, or possibly that older males may prevent the younger males from breeding successfully.

Ford said he and his colleagues are particularly worried about the group's lack of genetic diversity, which he characterized as a "bottleneck." "Since this population remains isolated from other killer whale populations, mating within pods puts Southern Residents at risk of genetically deteriorating further from a potential increase in inbreeding or harmful mutations," he said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Vicky Krikelas
Vicky.Krikelas@noaa.gov
206-554-1724
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Whale sharks may produce many litters from 1 mating, paternity test shows
2. Advance offers revolution in food safety testing
3. First results from hospital trials testing
4. M.I.N.D. Institute researchers call for fragile X testing throughout the lifespan
5. VCU survey: US public supports genetic research, testing and government spending on research
6. DNA testing may unlock secrets of medieval manuscripts
7. Genetic testing not cost-effective in guiding initial dosing of common blood thinner
8. Consumers desire more genetic testing, but not designer babies
9. New reference material can improve testing of multivitamin tablets
10. Cystic fibrosis testing -- next steps
11. Countries unite to reduce animal use in product toxicity testing worldwide
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2017)... May 16, 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( www.veratad.com ... age and identity verification solutions, announced today they will ... 2017, May 15 thru May 17, 2017, in ... International Trade Center. Identity impacts the ... in today,s quickly evolving digital world, defining identity is ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , April 18, 2017  Socionext Inc., a ... prototype of a media edge server, the M820, which features the ... face recognition software provided by Tera Probe, Inc., will be showcased ... and at the NAB show at the Las Vegas ... ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... offering. ... market to grow at a CAGR of 30.37% during the period ... has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs ... growth prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics, today confirmed licensing rights ... (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed in collaboration with Children’s Hospital ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... , Oct. 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates ... will speak at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 ... in the residential home security market and how smart safety and security ... Parks Associates: ... "The residential security ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... The Pittcon Program Committee is pleased to ... who have made outstanding contributions to analytical chemistry and applied spectroscopy. Each award ... conference and exposition for laboratory science, which will be held February 26-March 1, ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... At its national board ... Stubbs, a professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected ... member of the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: