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Fine-scale study finds limited evidence of kin clustering in a gray seal colony

Poland, V.F.; Pomeroy, P.P.; Twiss, S.D.; Graves, J.A.

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V.F. Poland

P.P. Pomeroy

J.A. Graves


Microsatellites were used to investigate fine-scale spatial and temporal genetic structure of a gray seal breeding colony, using samples collected throughout the colony (1997) and more extensive local sampling (2000–2002). Previous behavior of breeding seals on North Rona, including philopatry and high breeding site fidelity, suggested female kin may cluster together. However, low FST scores indicated no genetic differentiation between the major breeding aggregations in different regions of the colony. Nevertheless, the pairwise relatedness of mothers within regions was significantly higher than the relatedness of mothers between regions. Evidence of kin clustering occurred within one region in the colony. Within this region, mothers' pairwise relatedness decreased significantly with increasing distance between pupping sites. Pairwise relatedness of neighboring females within this region was also higher than expected. Conversely, in the other regions mothers that were considered likely to have social interactions, based on their spatial and temporal proximity, were not more related to each other than random. Therefore, sustained philopatry appears sufficient to produce differences in relatedness at a within-colony scale (>500 m), but not at finer scales. This suggests that long-term associations of mothers on North Rona detected previously are unlikely to be formed solely by close kin.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 21, 2008
Deposit Date Feb 11, 2013
Publicly Available Date Mar 17, 2014
Journal Marine Mammal Science
Print ISSN 0824-0469
Electronic ISSN 1748-7692
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 371-387
Keywords Genetic structure, Microsatellites, Gray seal, Halichoerus grypus, Relatedness, Kin clustering.
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Accepted Journal Article (375 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Poland, V. F., Pomeroy, P. P., Twiss, S. D. and Graves, J. A. (2008), Fine-scale study finds limited evidence of kin clustering in a gray seal colony. Marine Mammal Science, 24 (2): 371–387, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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