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Molecular Genetic Studies of Population Structure and Movement Patterns in a Migratory Species: The Beluga Whale in the Western Nearctic

January 01, 2002

Review of mtDNA findings on the population structure and evolutionary history of beluga whales in the western Nearctic.

Advances in the fields of molecular biology, evolutionary biology, and population genetics over the past few decades have enabled us to examine variations within species at the molecular level and to interpret the nature of this variation in terms of the evolution and ecology of species and the behavior of individuals within species. By describing patterns of polymorphism at genetic loci, coupled with an understanding of how these loci vary (modes and rates of evolution) and are passed from one generation to the next (modes of inheritance), it is possible to do the following: (1) reconstruct the evolutionary histories of taxa; (2) learn about patterns of dispersal and gene flow which can be of particular relevance to defining units of species management; and (3) assign paternity and determine kinship and thus gain insights into breeding behavior and social organization (Maynard Smith, 1989; Avise, 1994; Mortiz, 1994).


Greg M. O'Corry-Crowe, Andrew E. Dizon, R. S. Suydam, and Lloyd F. Lowry. Published in Molecular and Cell Biology of Marine Mammals, chapter 6 (2002).

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 03/06/2019

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale