The structure and amount of genetic variation within and between three subspecies of the harbour seal Phoca vitulina was assessed by multilocus DNA fingerprinting. Bandsharing similarity indicates that the subspecies Phoca vitulina richardsi (Alaska, East Pacific) is clearly separated from the other two subspecies, Phoca vitulina concolor (Sable Island, West Atlantic) and Phoca vitulina vitulina (North Sea, East Atlantic). The subspecies also differ significantly in the estimated amount of heterozygosity. Phoca vitulina richardsi has by far the highest amount of genetic variation, whereas P. vitulina vitulina has very low levels of genetic variation. Within the subspecies P. vitulina vitulina, especially the Wadden Sea population is depauperate of genetic variation. The findings are discussed in a historical, biogeographical and a conservation biological context.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kappe, A. L., Bijlsma, R., Osterhaus, A., van Delden, W., & van de Zande, L. (1997). Structure and amount of genetic variation at minisatellite loci within the subspecies complex of Phoca vitulina (the harbour seal). Heredity, 78, 457–463. Retrieved from