Changement climatique - Recherche française (avec laboratoires CNRS) - 2010-2015


Genetic and historic evidence for climate-driven population fragmentation in a top cetacean predator: the harbour porpoises in European water

Publication Year


  • Fontaine, Michael C.
  • Tolley, Krystal A.
  • Michaux, Johan R.
  • Birkun, Alexei, Jr.
  • Ferreira, Marisa
  • Jauniaux, Thierry
  • Llavona, Angela
  • Ozturk, Bayram
  • Ozturk, Ayaka A.
  • Ridoux, Vincent
  • Rogan, Emer
  • Sequeira, Marina
  • Bouquegneau, Jean-Marie
  • Baird, Stuart J. E.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Volume: 277 Issue: 1695 Pages: 2829-2837 Published: 2010

Recent climate change has triggered profound reorganization in northeast Atlantic ecosystems, with substantial impact on the distribution of marine assemblages from plankton to fishes. However, assessing the repercussions on apex marine predators remains a challenging issue, especially for pelagic species. In this study, we use Bayesian coalescent modelling of microsatellite variation to track the population demographic history of one of the smallest temperate cetaceans, the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in European waters. Combining genetic inferences with palaeo-oceanographic and historical records provides strong evidence that populations of harbour porpoises have responded markedly to the recent climate-driven reorganization in the eastern North Atlantic food web. This response includes the isolation of porpoises in Iberian waters from those further north only approximately 300 years ago with a predominant northward migration, contemporaneous with the warming trend underway since the 'Little Ice Age' period and with the ongoing retreat of cold-water fishes from the Bay of Biscay. The extinction or exodus of harbour porpoises from the Mediterranean Sea (leaving an isolated relict population in the Black Sea) has lacked a coherent explanation. The present results suggest that the fragmentation of harbour distribution range in the Mediterranean Sea was triggered during the warm 'Mid-Holocene Optimum' period (approx. 5000 years ago), by the end of the post-glacial nutrient-rich 'Sapropel' conditions that prevailed before that time.

Author Keyword(s)
  • cetacean
  • climate change
  • habitat fragmentation
  • population genetics
  • coalescence
KeyWord(s) Plus
  • SEA
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Biology & Biochemistry
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Plant & Animal Science
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology

[Fontaine, Michael C.; Michaux, Johan R.; Baird, Stuart J. E.] INRA, UMR CBGP, F-34988 Paris, France; [Tolley, Krystal A.] Inst Marine Res, Marine Mammal Div, N-5024 Bergen, Norway; [Tolley, Krystal A.] S African Natl Biodivers Inst, ZA-7735 Cape Town, South Africa; [Michaux, Johan R.] Univ Liege, Inst Bot B22, Dept Sci Vie, B-4000 Liege, Belgium; [Birkun, Alexei, Jr.] Med & Aquaculture BREMA, Lab Biotechnol Res Ecol, Simferopol, Ukraine; [Ferreira, Marisa] Univ Minho, Portuguese Wildlife Soc CBMA, P-4710057 Braga, Portugal; [Jauniaux, Thierry] Royal Belgian Inst Nat Sci, Management Unit N Sea Math Models, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium; [Jauniaux, Thierry] Univ Liege, Dept Pathol, B-4000 Liege, Belgium; [Llavona, Angela] CEMMA, Coordinadora Estudio Mamiferos Marinos, Gondomar, Spain; [Ozturk, Bayram; Ozturk, Ayaka A.] Istanbul Univ, Fac Fisheries, Laleli Istanbul, Turkey; [Ridoux, Vincent] Univ La Rochelle, Ctr Rech Mammiferes Marins, F-17071 La Rochelle, France; [Rogan, Emer] Univ Coll, Dept Zool Ecol & Plant Sci, Cork, Ireland; [Sequeira, Marina] Inst Conservacao Nat & Biodiversidade, P-1150999 Lisbon, Portugal; [Baird, Stuart J. E.] CIBIO, P-4485661 Vairao, Portugal; [Fontaine, Michael C.; Bouquegneau, Jean-Marie] Univ Liege, MARE Ctr, Lab Oceanol, B-4000 Liege, Belgium

Reprint Adress

Fontaine, MC (reprint author), Univ Paris 11, Lab Ecol Systemat & Evolut, UMR8079, Bat 425, F-91405 Orsay, France.

  • Belgium
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
CNRS - Adress(es)
  • Ecologie, systématique et évolution (ESE), UMR8079
Accession Number
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