Population divergence and gene flow in an endangered and highly mobile seabird


Welch, Andreanna

Fleischer, Robert

James, Helen

Wiley, Anne

Ostrom, Peggy

Adams, Josh

Duvall, Fern

Holmes, Nick

Hu, Darcy

Penniman, Jay

Swindle, Keith

Journal or Book Title: Heredity

Keywords: Cytochrome b; intron; microsatellite; population; Hawaiian petrel; Pterodroma sandwichensis

Volume/Issue: 109

Page Number(s): 19-28

Year Published: 2012


Seabirds are highly vagile and can disperse up to thousands of kilometers, making it difficult to identify the factors that promote isolation between populations. The endemic Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) is one such species. Today it is endangered, and known to breed only on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Kauai. Historical records indicate that a large population formerly bred on Molokai as well, but this population has recently been extirpated. Given the great dispersal potential of these petrels, it remains unclear if populations are genetically distinct and which factors may contribute to isolation between them. We sampled petrels from across their range, including individuals from the presumably extirpated Molokai population. We sequenced 524 bp of mitochondrial DNA, 741 bp from three nuclear introns, and genotyped 18 microsatellite loci in order to examine the patterns of divergence in this species and to investigate the potential underlying mechanisms. Both mitochondrial and nuclear data sets indicated significant genetic differentiation among all modern populations, but no differentiation was found between historic samples from Molokai and modern birds from Lanai. Population- specific nonbreeding distribution and strong natal philopatry may reduce gene flow between populations. However, the lack of population structure between extirpated Molokai birds and modern birds on Lanai indicates that there was substantial gene flow between these populations and that petrels may be able to overcome barriers to dispersal prior to complete extirpation. Hawaiian petrel populations could be considered distinct management units, however, the dwindling population on Hawaii may require translocation to prevent extirpation in the near future.

DOI: 10.1038/hdy.2012.7

Type of Publication: Journal Article