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Data from: First circumglobal assessment of Southern Hemisphere humpback whale mitochondrial genetic variation and implications for management
The description of genetic population structure over a species' geographic range can provide insights into its evolutionary history and also support effective management efforts. Assessments for globally distributed species are rare, however, requiring significant international coordination and collaboration. The global distribution of demographically discrete populations for the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae is not fully known, hampering the definition of appropriate management units. Here, we present the first circumglobal assessment of mitochondrial genetic population structure across the species' range in the Southern Hemisphere and Arabian Sea. We combine new and existing data from the mitochondrial (mt)DNA control region that resulted in a 311 bp consensus sequence of the mtDNA control region for 3009 individuals sampled across 14 breeding stocks and subpopulations currently recognized by the International Whaling Commission. We assess genetic diversity and test for genetic differentiation and also estimate the magnitude and directionality of historic matrilineal gene flow between putative populations. Our results indicate that maternally directed site fidelity drives significant genetic population structure between breeding stocks within ocean basins. However, patterns of connectivity differ across the circumpolar range, possibly as a result of differences in the extent of longitudinal movements on feeding areas. The number of population comparisons observed to be significantly differentiated were found to diminish at the subpopulation scale when nucleotide differences were examined, indicating that more complex processes underlie genetic structure at this scale. It is crucial that these complexities and uncertainties are afforded greater consideration in management and regulatory efforts.
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