First Advisor

Deborah A. Duffield

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Population substructure, Phoca vitulina richardsi, Pacific harbor seals, Harbor seal -- Oregon -- Geographical distribution, Harbor seal -- Washington (State) -- Geographical distribution, Harbor seal -- Variation -- Oregon, Harbor seal -- Variation -- Washington (State), Animal population genetics



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 103 p.) : ill., map


It has been assumed that the considerable dispersal ability of many marine species would prevent genetic divergence in the absence of geographic isolation. However, recent work has shown that many marine species often develop differentiation among areas within their known dispersal range. This 'paradox' of marine divergence is particularly important among marine mammal species where behavior can restrict gene flow. To investigate genetic substructure within such a species, I used tissue samples collected from 63 stranded Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) in Washington and Oregon between 2006 and 2010 for population stock analysis. DNA was extracted from frozen tissues, and a 551 bp fragment of mtDNA control region sequence and eight microsatellite loci were amplified to investigate localized genetic structure. Minimum spanning network and haplotype frequency analyses of mtDNA sequences indicated that while haplotype lineages are not isolated within a sampling region, there is some evidence of regional differentiation. On the other hand, microsatellite data suggest a lack of substructure among the animals sampled, with only a weak signal of limited gene flow between Puget Sound and coastal areas. Biased dispersal among age classes was also suggested, with juveniles showing less differentiation among areas than adults. Regardless of the historical scenario which has led to this complex pattern of genetic structure in Pacific harbor seals across the Pacific Northwest, my results suggest higher levels of exchange among areas than previously suspected, and will have important consequences for future management considerations for these stocks.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Biology

Persistent Identifier