Genetic divergence between two phenotypically distinct bottlenose dolphin ecotypes suggests separate evolutionary trajectories.
ABSTRACT: Due to their worldwide distribution and occupancy of different types of environments, bottlenose dolphins display considerable morphological variation. Despite limited understanding about the taxonomic identity of such forms and connectivity among them at global scale, coastal (or inshore) and offshore (or oceanic) ecotypes have been widely recognized in several ocean regions. In the Southwest Atlantic Ocean (SWA), however, there are scarce records of bottlenose dolphins differing in external morphology according to habitat preferences that resemble the coastal-offshore pattern observed elsewhere. The main aim of this study was to analyze the genetic variability, and test for population structure between coastal (n = 127) and offshore (n = 45) bottlenose dolphins sampled in the SWA to assess whether their external morphological distinction is consistent with genetic differentiation. We used a combination of mtDNA control region sequences and microsatellite genotypes to infer population structure and levels of genetic diversity. Our results from both molecular marker types were congruent and revealed strong levels of structuring (microsatellites FST = 0.385, p < .001; mtDNA FST = 0.183, p < .001; ?ST = 0.385, p < .001) and much lower genetic diversity in the coastal than the offshore ecotype, supporting patterns found in previous studies elsewhere. Despite the opportunity for gene flow in potential "contact zones", we found minimal current and historical connectivity between ecotypes, suggesting they are following discrete evolutionary trajectories. Based on our molecular findings, which seem to be consistent with morphological differentiations recently described for bottlenose dolphins in our study area, we recommend recognizing the offshore bottlenose dolphin ecotype as an additional Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) in the SWA. Implications of these results for the conservation of bottlenose dolphins in SWA are also discussed.
Project description:Environmental conditions can shape genetic and morphological divergence. Release of new habitats during historical environmental changes was a major driver of evolutionary diversification. Here, forces shaping population structure and ecotype differentiation ('pelagic' and 'coastal') of bottlenose dolphins in the North-east Atlantic were investigated using complementary evolutionary and ecological approaches. Inference of population demographic history using approximate Bayesian computation indicated that coastal populations were likely founded by the Atlantic pelagic population after the Last Glacial Maxima probably as a result of newly available coastal ecological niches. Pelagic dolphins from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea likely diverged during a period of high productivity in the Mediterranean Sea. Genetic differentiation between coastal and pelagic ecotypes may be maintained by niche specializations, as indicated by stable isotope and stomach content analyses, and social behaviour. The two ecotypes were only weakly morphologically segregated in contrast to other parts of the World Ocean. This may be linked to weak contrasts between coastal and pelagic habitats and/or a relatively recent divergence. We suggest that ecological opportunity to specialize is a major driver of genetic and morphological divergence. Combining genetic, ecological and morphological approaches is essential to understanding the population structure of mobile and cryptic species.
Project description:For highly mobile species that nevertheless show fine-scale patterns of population genetic structure, the relevant evolutionary mechanisms determining structure remain poorly understood. The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is one such species, exhibiting complex patterns of genetic structure associated with local habitat dependence in various geographic regions. Here we studied bottlenose dolphin populations in the Gulf of California and Pacific Ocean off Baja California where habitat is highly structured to test associations between ecology, habitat dependence and genetic differentiation. We investigated population structure at a fine geographic scale using both stable isotope analysis (to assess feeding ecology) and molecular genetic markers (to assess population structure). Our results show that there are at least two factors affecting population structure for both genetics and feeding ecology (as indicated by stable isotope profiles). On the one hand there is a signal for the differentiation of individuals by ecotype, one foraging more offshore than the other. At the same time, there is differentiation between the Gulf of California and the west coast of Baja California, meaning that for example, nearshore ecotypes were both genetically and isotopically differentiated either side of the peninsula. We discuss these data in the context of similar studies showing fine-scale population structure for delphinid species in coastal waters, and consider possible evolutionary mechanisms.
Project description:Whales and dolphins (Cetacea) have excellent social learning skills as well as a long and strong mother-calf bond. These features produce stable cultures, and, in some species, sympatric groups with different cultures. There is evidence and speculation that this cultural transmission of behavior has affected gene distributions. Culture seems to have driven killer whales into distinct ecotypes, which may be incipient species or subspecies. There are ecotype-specific signals of selection in functional genes that correspond to cultural foraging behavior and habitat use by the different ecotypes. The five species of whale with matrilineal social systems have remarkably low diversity of mtDNA. Cultural hitchhiking, the transmission of functionally neutral genes in parallel with selective cultural traits, is a plausible hypothesis for this low diversity, especially in sperm whales. In killer whales the ecotype divisions, together with founding bottlenecks, selection, and cultural hitchhiking, likely explain the low mtDNA diversity. Several cetacean species show habitat-specific distributions of mtDNA haplotypes, probably the result of mother-offspring cultural transmission of migration routes or destinations. In bottlenose dolphins, remarkable small-scale differences in haplotype distribution result from maternal cultural transmission of foraging methods, and large-scale redistributions of sperm whale cultural clans in the Pacific have likely changed mitochondrial genetic geography. With the acceleration of genomics new results should come fast, but understanding gene-culture coevolution will be hampered by the measured pace of research on the socio-cultural side of cetacean biology.
Project description:Isotopic niche has typically been characterized through carbon and nitrogen ratios and most modeling approaches are limited to two dimensions. Yet, other stable isotopes can provide additional power to resolve questions associated with foraging, migration, dispersal and variations in resource use. The ellipse niche model was recently generalized to n-dimensions. We present an analogous methodology which incorporates variation across three stable dimensions to estimate the significant features of a population's isotopic niche space including: 1) niche volume (referred to as standard ellipsoid volume, SEV), 2) relative centroid location (CL), 3) shape and 4) area of overlap between multiple ellipsoids and 5) distance between two CLs. We conducted a simulation study showing the accuracy and precision of three dimensional niche models across a range of values. Importantly, the model correctly identifies differences in SEV and CL among populations, even with small sample sizes and in cases where the absolute values cannot precisely be recovered. We use these results to provide guidelines for sample size in conducting multivariate isotopic niche modeling. We demonstrate the utility of our approach with a case study of three bottlenose dolphin populations which appear to possess largely overlapping niches when analyzed with only carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Upon inclusion of sulfur, we see that the three dolphin ecotypes are in fact segregated on the basis of salinity and find the stable isotope niche of inshore bottlenose dolphins significantly larger than coastal and offshore populations.
Project description:Coexistence in the same habitat of closely related yet genetically different populations is a phenomenon that challenges our understanding of local population structure and adaptation. Identifying the underlying mechanisms for such coexistence can yield new insight into adaptive evolution, diversification and the potential for organisms to adapt and persist in response to a changing environment. Recent studies have documented cryptic, sympatric populations of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in coastal areas. We analysed genetic origin of 6,483 individual cod sampled annually over 14 years from 125 locations along the Norwegian Skagerrak coast and document stable coexistence of two genetically divergent Atlantic cod ecotypes throughout the study area and study period. A "fjord" ecotype dominated in numbers deep inside fjords while a "North Sea" ecotype was the only type found in offshore North Sea. Both ecotypes coexisted in similar proportions throughout coastal habitats at all spatial scales. The size-at-age of the North Sea ecotype on average exceeded that of the fjord ecotype by 20% in length and 80% in weight across all habitats. Different growth and size among individuals of the two types might be one of several ecologically significant variables that allow for stable coexistence of closely related populations within the same habitat. Management plans, biodiversity initiatives and other mitigation strategies that do not account for the mixture of species ecotypes are unlikely to meet objectives related to the sustainability of fish and fisheries.
Project description:Informed conservation management of marine mammals requires an understanding of population size and habitat preferences. In Australia, such data are needed for the assessment and mitigation of anthropogenic impacts, including fisheries interactions, coastal zone developments, oil and gas exploration and mining activities. Here, we present large-scale estimates of abundance, density and habitat preferences of southern Australian bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) over an area of 42,438km2 within two gulfs of South Australia. Using double-observer platform aerial surveys over four strata and mark-recapture distance sampling analyses, we estimated 3,493 (CV = 0.21; 95%CI = 2,327-5,244) dolphins in summer/autumn, and 3,213 (CV = 0.20; 95%CI = 2,151-4,801) in winter/spring of 2011. Bottlenose dolphin abundance and density was higher in gulf waters across both seasons (0.09-0.24 dolphins/km2) compared to adjacent shelf waters (0.004-0.04 dolphins/km2). The high densities of bottlenose dolphins in the two gulfs highlight the importance of these gulfs as a habitat for the species. Habitat modelling associated bottlenose dolphins with shallow waters, flat seafloor topography, and higher sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in summer/autumn and lower SSTs in winter/spring. Spatial predictions showed high dolphin densities in northern and coastal gulf sections. Distributional data should inform management strategies, marine park planning and environmental assessments of potential anthropogenic threats to this protected species.
Project description:The hydroponic cultivation of spiny chicory (Cichorium spinosum L.), also known as stamnagathi, allows the development of year-round production. In the current study, two contrasting stamnagathi ecotypes originating from a montane and a coastal-marine habitat were supplied with nutrient solution containing 4 or 16 mM total-N in combination with 0.3, 20, or 40 mM NaCl. The primary aim of the experiment was to provide insight into salinity tolerance and nutrient needs in the two ecotypes, thereby contributing to breeding of more resilient cultivars to salinity and nutrient stress. Nutritional qualities of the stamnagathi genotypes were also tested. The coastal-marine ecotype was more salt tolerant in terms of fresh shoot biomass production and contained significantly more water and macro- and micro-nutrients in the shoot per dry weight unit. The root Na+ concentration was markedly lower in the coastal-marine compared to the montane ecotype. The leaf Na+ concentration was similar in both ecotypes at external NaCl concentrations up to 20 mM, but significantly higher in the montane compared to the coastal-marine ecotype at 40 mM NaCl. However, the leaf Cl- concentration was consistently higher in the coastal-marine than in the montane ecotype within each salinity level. The marine ecotype also exhibited significantly less total phenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, and chlorophyll compared to the montane ecotype across all treatments. Integrating all findings, it appears that at moderate salinity levels (20 mM), the higher salt tolerance of the coastal-marine ecotype is associated with mechanisms mitigating Na+ and Cl- toxicity within the leaf tissues, such as salt dilution imposed through increased leaf succulence. Nevertheless, at high external NaCl levels, Na+ exclusion may also contribute to enhanced salt tolerance of stamnagathi. Both ecotypes exhibited a high N-use efficiency, as their shoot biomass was not restricted when the total-N supply varied from 16 to 4 mM. The leaf organic-N was not influenced by salinity, while the interaction ecotype × N-supply-level was insignificant, indicating that the mechanisms involved in the salt tolerance difference between the two ecotypes was not linked with N-acquisition or -assimilation within the plant. The current results indicate that both ecotypes are promising germplasm resources for future breeding programs.
Project description:Marine wildlife populations are adapted to survive in highly dynamic environments. However, identifying the effects of endogenous versus exogenous variables on marine mammal physiology remains a substantial challenge in part because of the logistical constraints that limit the collection of physiological data in free-ranging animals. Measuring genome-wide gene expression is one minimally invasive method that can be used to elucidate how free-ranging cetaceans' physiological responses shift with changing environmental conditions or demographic states, i.e. reproductive status and maturity. We identified transcriptomic differences among bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Southern California Bight using RNAseq data from the skin of 75 individuals to examine gene expression associated with sex, pregnancy status, sea surface temperature, geographic location and ecotype. We identified transcriptomic variation between two genetically distinct ecotypes as well as variation related to environmental conditions among groups that exhibit little evidence of genetic divergence. Specifically, we found differential expression of genes associated with structural development, cellular starvation and immune response. Sex and pregnancy status explained a small proportion of the observed variation, in contrast to sea surface temperature, which explained a substantial amount of transcriptomic variation. However, these measured variables did not account for all of the differential expression observed between ecotypes and among geographically distinct groups. Additional research is needed to identify other endogenous or exogenous factors that may be contributing to observed transcriptomic differences among ecotypes.
Project description:Phthalates are chemical esters used as additives in common consumer goods, such as plastics, household cleaners, and personal care products. Phthalates are not chemically bound to the items to which they are added and can easily leach into the surrounding environment. Anthropogenic drivers, such as coastal plastic pollution and wastewater runoff, increase the exposure potential for coastal marine fauna. Phthalate exposure in free-ranging bottlenose dolphins has been the focus of recent study, with indications of heightened exposure to certain phthalate compounds. The objective of this study was to compare urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations among bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) sampled in Sarasota Bay, FL, to levels reported in human samples collected as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Monoethyl phthalate (MEP) and mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP) were the most prevalent metabolites detected in dolphin urine (n = 51; MEP = 29.41%; MEHP = 54.90%). The geometric mean (GM) concentration of MEP was significantly lower for dolphins (GM = 4.51 ng/mL; 95% CI: 2.77-7.34 ng/mL) compared to humans (p<0.05), while dolphin concentrations of MEHP (GM = 4.57 ng/mL; 95% CI: 2.37-8.80 ng/mL) were significantly higher than levels reported in NHANES (p<0.05). Health impacts to bottlenose dolphins resulting from elevated exposure to the MEHP parent compound (diethyl-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, DEHP) are currently unknown. However, given the evidence of endocrine disruption, reproductive impairment, and abnormal development in humans, pursuing investigations of potential health effects in exposed bottlenose dolphins would be warranted.
Project description:Targeted environmental monitoring reveals contamination by known chemicals, but may exclude potentially pervasive but unknown compounds. Marine mammals are sentinels of persistent and bioaccumulative contaminants due to their longevity and high trophic position. Using nontargeted analysis, we constructed a mass spectral library of 327 persistent and bioaccumulative compounds identified in blubber from two ecotypes of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) sampled in the Southern California Bight. This library of halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) consisted of 180 anthropogenic contaminants, 41 natural products, 4 with mixed sources, 8 with unknown sources, and 94 with partial structural characterization and unknown sources. The abundance of compounds whose structures could not be fully elucidated highlights the prevalence of undiscovered HOCs accumulating in marine food webs. Eighty-six percent of the identified compounds are not currently monitored, including 133 known anthropogenic chemicals. Compounds related to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) were the most abundant. Natural products were, in some cases, detected at abundances similar to anthropogenic compounds. The profile of naturally occurring HOCs differed between ecotypes, suggesting more abundant offshore sources of these compounds. This nontargeted analytical framework provided a comprehensive list of HOCs that may be characteristic of the region, and its application within monitoring surveys may suggest new chemicals for evaluation.