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Bottlenose dolphin communities from the southern Brazilian coast: do they exchange genes or are they just neighbours?

Borges Costa, Ana Paula, Fruet, Pedro, Daura-Jorge, Fábio Gonçalves, Simões-Lopes, Paulo César, Ott, Paulo Henrique, Valiati, Victor Hugo, de Oliveira, Larissa Rosa
Marine & freshwater research 2015 v.66 no.12 pp. 1201-1210
Tursiops truncatus, biopsy, coasts, dolphins, fishermen, genes, philopatry, population structure
The genetic structure of bottlenose dolphin communities found along the southern Brazilian coast is reported in this study. Genetic structure analysis using biopsy samples from free ranging dolphins and tissue samples from stranded dolphins revealed a fine-scale population structure among three distinct groups. The first genetically distinct group was composed of resident dolphins of Laguna with a high degree of site fidelity. The second group was composed of one photo-identified dolphin, previously recognised by its interaction with fishermen, and dolphins that stranded near the mouth of Tramandaí Lagoon. Moderate nuclear and low mitochondrial gene diversity was found in dolphins of those coastal communities, whereas most of the dolphins stranded along the coast showed markedly higher levels of gene diversity at both markers. These stranded dolphins of unknown origin formed the third distinct group, which may be part of a larger offshore community. These results demonstrate the presence of at least three bottlenose dolphin clusters along this portion of the Brazilian coast, with the coastal specimens appearing to be only neighbours of a larger offshore community that eventually strands along the coast, highlighting the importance of the establishment of management and conservation measures for the species at a local scale.