Data from: Mitogenomic phylogenetics of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus spp.): genetic evidence for revision of subspecies

  • Frederick I. Archer (Creator)
  • Phillip A. Morin (Creator)
  • Brittany L. Hancock-Hanser (Creator)
  • Kelly M Robertson (Creator)
  • Matthew S. Leslie (Creator)
  • Martine Bérubé (Creator)
  • Simone Panigada (Creator)
  • Barbara L. Taylor (Creator)



There are three described subspecies of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus): B. p. physalus Linnaeus, 1758 in the Northern Hemisphere, B. p. quoyi Fischer, 1829 in the Southern Hemisphere, and a recently described pygmy form, B. p. patachonica Burmeister, 1865. The discrete distribution in the North Pacific and North Atlantic raises the question of whether a single Northern Hemisphere subspecies is valid. We assess phylogenetic patterns using ~16 K base pairs of the complete mitogenome for 154 fin whales from the North Pacific, North Atlantic - including the Mediterranean Sea - and Southern Hemisphere. A Bayesian tree of the resulting 136 haplotypes revealed several well-supported clades representing each ocean basin, with no haplotypes shared among ocean basins. The North Atlantic haplotypes (n = 12) form a sister clade to those from the Southern Hemisphere (n = 42). The estimated time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for this Atlantic/Southern Hemisphere clade and 81 of the 97 samples from the North Pacific was approximately 2 Ma. 14 of the remaining North Pacific samples formed a well-supported clade within the Southern Hemisphere. The TMRCA for this node suggests that at least one female from the Southern Hemisphere immigrated to the North Pacific approximately 0.37 Ma. These results provide strong evidence that North Pacific and North Atlantic fin whales should not be considered the same subspecies, and suggest the need for revision of the global taxonomy of the species.

There were a total of 103 CR haplotypes in the Sanger-sequenced data set (Table 1). Haplotypic diversity was high both within ocean basins as well as across all samples. The minimum diversity within an ocean basin was 0.828 for the North Atlantic, which also had the fewest samples. There were no shared haplotypes among ocean basins. There were two fixed differences between the North Atlantic and North Pacific (sites 181 and 198), and one between the North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere sequences (site 198).
Date made available21-May-2013
PublisherUniversity of Groningen
Geographical coverageNorth Pacific, North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Hemisphere, Southern Ocean, California, Oregon, Gulf of California, Washington, Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea

Keywords on Datasets

  • subspecies
  • phylogeny
  • cetacean
  • Mysticeti
  • taxonomy
  • Balaenoptera physalus

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