International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2016)

DOI: 10.3390/ijms17081268


Social behaviors are poorly known for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise (YFP, Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis). Here, group composition and dispersal patterns of the YFP population living in the Poyang Lake were studied by parentage-based pedigree analyses using 21 microsatellite loci and a 597 bp segment of the mitochondrial DNA control region. In this study, 21 potential mother-offspring pairs and six potential father-offspring pairs (including two potential parents-offspring pairs) were determined, among which 12 natural mother-offspring groups and a maternal group of three generations were found. No genetically-determined fathers were found associated with their offspring. This study also found that maternally related porpoises at the reproductive state tend to group together. This suggest maternal relationship and reproductive state may be factors for grouping in the YFP population. In natural mother-offspring groups, male offspring were all younger than two years old, which suggest male offspring may leave their mothers at approximately two years of age, or at least they were not in tight association with their mothers as they may have been under two years old. However, female offspring can stay longer with their mothers and can reproduce in the natal group.