Journal of Sea Research (2015)

DOI: 10.1016/j.seares.2014.12.009


Conservation management in the North Sea is often motivated by the population size of marine mammals, like harbor porpoises Phocoena phocoena. In the Dutch part of the North Sea, sighting and stranding data are used to estimate population sizes, but these data give little insight into genetic structuring of the population. In this study we investigated genetic structure among animals stranded at different locations and times of year. We also tested whether there is a link between stranding and necropsy data, and genetic diversity. We made use of both mitochondrial (mtDNA) and microsatellite DNA analysis of samples from dead stranded porpoises along the Dutch coast during 2007. mtDNA analysis showed 6 variable positions in the control region, defining 3 different haplotypes. mtDNA haplotypes were not randomly distributed along the Dutch coastline. However, microsatellite analysis showed that these mtDNA haplotypes did not represent separate groups on a nuclear level. Furthermore, microsatellite analysis revealed no genotypic differences between seasons, locations or genders. The results of this study indicate that the Dutch population is panmictic. In contrast, heterozygosity levels were low, indicating some level of inbreeding in this population. However, this was not corroborated by other indices of inbreeding. This research provided insight into genetic structuring of stranded porpoises in 2007, but data from multiple years should be included to be able to help estimate population sizes.