University of Oulu

Heino, M. T., Nyman, T., Palo, J. U., Harmoinen, J., Valtonen, M., Pilot, M., Översti, S., Salmela, E., Kunnasranta, M., Väinölä, R., Hoelzel, A. R., & Aspi, J. (2023). Museum specimens of a landlocked pinniped reveal recent loss of genetic diversity and unexpected population connections. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e9720.

Museum specimens of a landlocked pinniped reveal recent loss of genetic diversity and unexpected population connections

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Author: Heino, Matti T.1,2; Nyman, Tommi3; Palo, Jukka U.2,4;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Ecosystems in the Barents Region, Svanhovd Research Station, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Svanvik, Norway
4Forensic Chemistry Unit/Forensic Genetics, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
5Wildlife Ecology Group, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Helsinki, Finland
6Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
7Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, Durham, UK
9Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Gdańsk, Poland
10Faculty of Biology, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
11Transmission, Infection, Diversification and Evolution Group, Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany
12Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
13Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
14University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
15Natural Resources Institute Finland, Joensuu, Finland
16Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
17Department of Biosciences, Durham University, Durham, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 6.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-02-09


The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) is endemic to Lake Saimaa in Finland. The subspecies is thought to have originated when parts of the ringed seal population of the Baltic region were trapped in lakes emerging due to postglacial bedrock rebound around 9000 years ago. During the 20th century, the population experienced a drastic human-induced bottleneck. Today encompassing a little over 400 seals with extremely low genetic diversity, it is classified as endangered. We sequenced sections of the mitochondrial control region from 60 up to 125-years-old museum specimens of the Saimaa ringed seal. The generated dataset was combined with publicly available sequences. We studied how genetic variation has changed through time in this subspecies and how it is phylogenetically related to other ringed seal populations from the Baltic Sea, Lake Ladoga, North America, Svalbard, and the White Sea. We observed temporal fluctuations in haplotype frequencies and loss of haplotypes accompanied by a recent reduction in female effective population size. In apparent contrast with the traditionally held view of the Baltic origin of the population, the Saimaa ringed seal mtDNA variation also shows affinities to North American ringed seals. Our results suggest that the Saimaa ringed seal has experienced recent genetic drift associated with small population size. The results further suggest that extant Baltic ringed seal is not representative of the ancestral population of the Saimaa ringed seal, which calls for re-evaluation of the deep history of this subspecies.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 13
Issue: 1
Article number: e9720
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9720
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
Funding: Emil Aaltonen Foundation; University of Oulu Scholarship Foundation; Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation; Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation; Marie Skłodowska Curie Intra-European Fellowship from the European Commission (PIEF-GA-2009-235978); Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA; Polish Returns Fellowship PPN/PPO/2018/1/00037); Raija and Ossi Tuuliainen Foundation; Kuopio Naturalists' Society; Nestori Foundation; Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation; Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation.
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.