Acta Theriologica (2003)

DOI: 10.1007/bf03192493


Baiji Lipotes vexillifer (Miller, 1918) and the Yangtze finless porpoise Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis (Pilleri and Gihr, 1972) are two sympatric small cetaceans inhabiting the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. In this study, a fragment (420–428 bp) of the mitochondrial control region was sequenced to provide the first comparative survey of genetic variability and population structure in these two endangered species, with samples of finless porpoises from the Yellow/Bohai Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea also included. Low values of haplotype diversity and nucleotide diversity were found for both species, especially for the baiji and the Yangtze River and South China Sea populations of finless porpoises. The analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) supported a high level of overall genetic structure among three porpoise populations in Chinese waters, with greatest differences found between either the Yangtze River population or the Yellow Sea population and the South China Sea population. The differentiation between the Yangtze and Yellow Sea populations was not significant, and the males have higher genetic differentiation than the females, suggesting a significant female-biased dispersal between these two populations. This study showed that the Yangtze finless porpoise, unlike the sympatric baiji, was not a genetically isolated population. The Yangtze and Yellow Sea porpoises should be included in the same management unit, but further studies using more samples and especially based on more molecular markers are urgently needed to confirm this.