An understanding of population structure and connectivity at multiple spatial scales is required to assist wildlife conservation and management. This is particularly critical for widely distributed and highly mobile marine mammals subject to fisheries by-catch. Here, we present a population genomic assessment of a near-top predator, the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), which is incidentally caught in multiple fisheries across the Australasian region. The study was carried out using 14,799 ddRAD sequenced genome-wide markers genotyped for 478 individuals sampled at multiple spatial scales across Australasia. A complex hierarchical metapopulation structure was identified, with three highly distinct and genetically diverse regional populations at large spatial scales (>1,500 km). The populations inhabit the southern coast of Australia, the eastern coast of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, with the latter also showing a considerable level of admixture to Australia's east coast. Each of these regional populations contained two to four nested local populations (i.e., subpopulations) at finer spatial scales, with most of the gene flow occurring within distances of 50 to 400 km. Estimates of contemporary migration rates between adjacent subpopulations ranged from 6 to 25%. Overall, our findings identified complex common dolphin population structure and connectivity across state and international jurisdictions, including migration and gene flow across the Tasman Sea. The results indicate that inter-jurisdictional collaboration is required to implement conservation management strategies and mitigate fisheries interactions of common dolphins across multiple spatial scales in the Australasian region.
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- conservation genomics
- fisheries genomics
- gene flow