Wild pedigrees inform mutation rates and historic abundance in baleen whales

Marcos Suárez-Menéndez*, Martine Bérubé, Fabrício Furni, Vania E Rivera-León, Mads-Peter Heide-Jørgensen, Finn Larsen, Richard Sears, Christian Ramp, Britas Klemens Eriksson, Rampal S Etienne, Jooke Robbins, Per J Palsbøll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Phylogeny-based estimates suggesting a low germline mutation rate (μ) in baleen whales have influenced research ranging from assessments of whaling impacts to evolutionary cancer biology. We estimated μ directly from pedigrees in four baleen whale species for both the mitochondrial control region and nuclear genome. The results suggest values higher than those obtained through phylogeny-based estimates and similar to pedigree-based values for primates and toothed whales. Applying our estimate of μ reduces previous genetic-based estimates of preexploitation whale abundance by 86% and suggests that μ cannot explain low cancer rates in gigantic mammals. Our study shows that it is feasible to estimate μ directly from pedigrees in natural populations, with wide-ranging implications for ecological and evolutionary research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-995
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume381
Issue number6661
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31-Aug-2023

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