Population genetic structure and taxonomy of the common dolphin (Delphinus sp.) at its southernmost range limit

New Zealand waters

Karen A. Stockin, Ana R. Amaral, Julie Latimer, David M. Lambert, Ada Natoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


New Zealand is the southernmost limit of the common dolphin's (genus Delphinus) distribution in the Pacific Ocean. In this area, common dolphins occur in both coastal and oceanic habitats, exhibit seasonal and resident occurrence, and present high morphological variability. Here we investigated the population structure and the taxonomic identity of common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) within New Zealand waters using 14 microsatellite loci, 577 bp of the mtDNA control region, and 1,120 bp of the mtDNA cytochrome b gene across 90 individuals. We found high genetic variability and evidence of population expansion. Phylogenetic analyses conducted to clarify the taxonomic status of New Zealand common dolphins did not show any clustering reflecting geographic origin or morphotypes. The microsatellite analysis showed genetic differentiation between Coastal and Oceanic putative populations, while mtDNA revealed significant genetic differentiation only between the Hauraki Gulf and other putative groups. Our results suggest that differences in habitat choice and possible female site fidelity may play a role in shaping population structure of New Zealand common dolphins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-63
Number of pages20
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Common dolphin
  • Delphinus
  • Population expansion
  • Population structure
  • Taxonomy

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