The evolutionary history of baleen whales in the genome era

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Humans have been changing landscapes and biodiversity at a global scale to
supply the needs of an exponentially growing population. The rapid development and
deployment of technology enabled humans to explore natural resources in an
unprecedented manner. As the human population increased, reductions in wild
populations followed. How long can exploited populations sustain humans? Will
populations that recovered from a substantial reduction thrive? What can history teach
us about how to maintain biodiversity? At the same time, technology has revolutionized
science in many ways. A good example is genomics. Now we are able to obtain complete
genome data of organisms at unprecedented scales, times, and costs. The hidden
information coded in billions of DNA nucleotides is an excellent means to access the past,
understand the present, and project the future. An interesting animal group to
investigate the above questions is baleen whales. Their enigmatic underwater life,
complex evolutionary histories, drastic past population reductions during commercial
whaling, and recent recovery, provide a unique opportunity to empirically assess some
commonly held assumptions in population genetics theory and make predictions
concerning the genomic legacy in contemporary populations.
This thesis explores the information contained in the complete genomes of
baleen whales, the largest vertebrates on Earth. Employing cutting-edge analyses of the
genome era, I attempted an in-depth investigation of the long-term and recent
evolutionary past of baleen whales. This thesis offers insight into some baleen whales'
complex phylogenetic relationships, a genome-wide glimpse into current and past
genetic diversity, changes in mutations, and most notably, the
impact of human exploitation on the genomic legacy of baleen whales.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Palsboll, Per, Supervisor
  • Speller, Camilla , Co-supervisor, External person
  • Secchi, Eduardo R., Co-supervisor, External person
  • Bérubé, Martine, Co-supervisor
Award date27-May-2024
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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