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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 59(3)

Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA sequences suggests revision of humpback dolphin (Sousa spp.) taxonomy is needed

Céline H. Frère A E, Peter T. Hale B, Lindsay Porter C, Victor G. Cockcroft D, Merel L. Dalebout A

A School of Biological, Earth and Ecological Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
B School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
C Worldwide Fund for Nature, 1 Tramway Path, Central, Hong Kong.
D Centre for Dolphin Studies, PO Box 1856, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa 6600.
E Corresponding author. Email: c.frere@uq.edu.au
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Humpback dolphins (Sousa spp.) have a wide distribution in the tropical Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans and a confused taxonomy. Morphological assessments suggest three species groupings – Sousa teuszii (eastern Atlantic), Sousa plumbea (western Indo-Pacific), and Sousa chinensis (eastern Indo-Pacific) – but most taxonomies recognise only two species – S. chinensis (Indo-Pacific), and S. teuszii (Atlantic). To investigate phylogenetic relationships, mitochondrial DNA control region sequences (338 base pairs) from 72 Sousa representing three populations in the Indo-Pacific (South Africa: S. plumbea, n = 23; China: S. chinensis, n = 19; and Australia: S. chinensis, n = 28), and S. teuszii in the Atlantic (Mauritania, n = 2) were generated. All three Indo-Pacific populations formed robust, monophyletic clades with high bootstrap (BS) and Bayesian posterior probability (BPP) scores. Surprisingly, humpback dolphins from South Africa and China formed a strongly-supported clade with the Atlantic S. teuszii (BS 63%, BPP 0.92) to the exclusion of animals from Australia. Genetic divergence between animals from China and Australia (DA = 8.4% ± 2.47%) was greater than between China and South Africa (DA = 5.1% ± 1.80%). These results strongly suggest that Australian humpback dolphins are not S. chinensis but may represent a distinct species in their own right.

Keywords: Australia, Delphininae, Hong Kong, phylogeography, South Africa, speciation.

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