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Monk Seal Fact Files

Mediterranean Monk Seal

(Monachus monachus)

Biology

Genetics

Of great concern to conservation biologists and wildlife managers is the genetic composition and diversity of an endangered species [see Threats]. Due to considerable difficulty in obtaining samples, the study of the genetic status of Mediterranean monk seals began only very recently. Results from limited samples indicate the presence of two mitochondrial DNA genotypes; one present in the population in the Atlantic and probably in the western Mediterranean and the other in the population of the eastern Mediterranean. There appears therefore to have been only limited gene flow between these two populations during recent centuries (van Bree 1979, Stanley 1995).

The study of the largest surviving colony at Cabo Blanco has shown that it has undergone a severe bottleneck in the past and currently exhibits low levels of genetic variability (Pastor et al. 1996, 1999, 2004). The mass die-off that struck the colony in 1997 does not appear, however, to have reduced the genetic diversity of the colony substantially (Derry et al. 1997).

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