Genetic diversity and structure of captive gentoo penguin populations in Japan

Until the last decade, gentoo penguins were usually split into two subspecies, northern gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua papua) breeding in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and other subantarctic islands and southern gentoo penguins (P. papua ellsworthi) breeding in the South Sandwich, South Orkney and South Shetland islands, and Antarctic Peninsula. Recent genetics research, however, suggests that the population at South Georgia is much more closely related to those further south and should be included in P. papua ellsworthi. In Japanese zoos and aquariums, captive breeding of gentoo penguins is conducted separately in three populations: “Captive-South Georgia,” originating from South Georgia, “Captive-South Shetlands,” originating from South Shetlands, and “Captive-Unknown,” originating from at least one founder of unknown subspecies. The aims of the present study were to investigate the genetic diversity and differentiation of these captive populations using microsatellite analysis. Genetic diversity in each captive population was similar to that found in the wild, although they had much lower contemporary effective population sizes. Pairwise genetic differentiation indexes (FST) among the three captive populations were as follows: 0.0309 (“Captive-South Georgia” and “Captive-Unknown”), 0.1094 (“Captive-South Georgia” and “Captive-South Shetlands”), and 0.1214 (“Captive-South Shetlands” and “Captive-Unknown”). Using Bayesian clustering, there was relatively high genetic differentiation between the “Captive-South Shetlands” group, which formed a distinct cluster, and individuals of the “Captive-Unknown” group, which were assigned to clusters in common with “Captive-South Georgia.” The results from the present study are useful for future management of captive gentoo penguin populations in Japan.


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Authors: Aoki, Yun, Zaitsu, Yosuke, Kurita, Masanori, Phillips, Richard A., Tadano, Ryo

On this site: Richard Phillips
2 May, 2022
Zoo Biology / 41
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