Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1099–1113 | Cite as

Fine-scale matrilineal population structure in the Galapagos fur seal and its implications for conservation management

  • Fernando Lopes
  • Joseph Ivan Hoffman
  • Victor Hugo Valiati
  • Sandro L. Bonatto
  • Jochen B. W. Wolf
  • Fritz Trillmich
  • Larissa R. Oliveira
Research Article


Females of many pinniped species generally exhibit strong fine-scale philopatry, but it is unclear over what spatial scale this behavior may translate into genetic population structure. We conducted a population genetic survey in the Galapagos fur seal, Arctocephalus galapagoensis, an endangered pinniped endemic to a small geographic range in the northwest of the Galapagos archipelago. To assess patterns of genetic diversity levels and population differentiation, we analyzed part of the mitochondrial control region (mtDNA) and 18 microsatellites DNA markers. We detected similar levels of genetic diversity to many other pinniped species (h = 0.86, π = 0.012, A = 7.44) despite severe anthropogenic exploitation in the nineteenth century and recurrent population crashes due to recent climatic perturbations associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation events. We further found remarkably strong fine-scale matrilineal population structure, with 33.9 % of the mtDNA variation being partitioned among colonies separated by as little as 70 km swimming distance. In contrast, population structure inferred from nuclear markers was weak. Our findings provide further evidence that natal philopatry can translate into fine-scale genetic population structure in highly mobile species. We discuss the relevance of our results for the fine-scale conservation management of this species with a very restricted geographic range.


Arctocephalus galapagoensis Philopatry Genetic diversity Galapagos Islands Pinnipeds 



We would like to thank the Servicio Parque Nacional Galápagos (SPNG) for the research permit and the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) for the logistic support during the fieldwork. The authors are indebted to K. Acevedo-Whitehouse, M. Cruz and S. Salazar for their help with tissue sampling; to the members of Laboratory of Mammal Ecology (UNISINOS) and Center for Genomics and Molecular Biology (PUCRS), especially to Lúcia Darsie Fraga and Ana Lúcia Cypriano, for their laboratory and analytical help and to Dr. Steve Kirkman, who kindly revised the final version of the manuscript. This study was financially supported by The VW-Foundation and National Geographic 7671-04 to Fritz Trillmich and CNPq 479199/2010-8 to Larissa Rosa de Oliveira. Fernando Lopes was Granted by CNPq (process n° GM 130945/2013-7, 144580/2012-8 and 148039/2011-1). This publication is Contribution Number 2108 of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands.

Supplementary material

10592_2015_725_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 27 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Lopes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joseph Ivan Hoffman
    • 3
  • Victor Hugo Valiati
    • 1
  • Sandro L. Bonatto
    • 2
  • Jochen B. W. Wolf
    • 4
  • Fritz Trillmich
    • 3
  • Larissa R. Oliveira
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS)São LeopoldoBrazil
  2. 2.Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul - PUCRSPorto AlegreBrazil
  3. 3.University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  4. 4.Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  5. 5.Grupo de Estudos de Mamiferos Aquaticos do Rio Grande do Sul (GEMARS)ImbéBrazil

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