Life and Death of an Elephant Seal Colony

Life and Death of an Elephant Seal Colony - The Antarctic...

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Cradle to grave Study provides insight into evolution and extinction of vanished elephant seal colony By Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun Editor Posted August 7, 2009 An extinct southern elephant seal colony that once existed in huge numbers along sandy and rocky beaches in Antarctica has provided new insight into how quickly a species can respond to the emergence of a new habitat as climate changes — and just as quickly disappear. That’s one of the findings in a paper published in the journal PLoS Genetics in July by scientists who studied DNA sequences from the organic remains of seals found along a nearly 300-kilometer stretch of coastline in Victoria Land, just north of the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station. Mark de Bruyn, lead author of the study and now with Bangor University in the U.K, said the findings showed that a very large, genetically diverse breeding population of southern elephant seals existed in the Ross Sea region around 7,000 to 400 years ago. “I believe the research is quite novel, as it tracks the population from inception to extinction,” de Bruyn said via e-mail while conducting fieldwork in Borneo. “The short timeframe is also noteworthy. Most of the ancient DNA work to date has focused on much older timeframes.” One exception, he added, has been work by David Lambert from Massey University in New Zealand, whose research has included studying “microevolution” in Adélie penguins over the last 6,000 years. The Victoria Land colony would have represented the southernmost extent of southern elephant seals in the world, according to Brenda Hall, a geologist with the University of Maine and a co-author on the paper. Hall, whose research interests include reconstruction of paleoclimate conditions in Antarctica, led the field team that collected the remains of the seals. The closest southern elephant seal colony today lives on the subantarctic Macquarie Island, which lies about halfway between Antarctica and Australia. The Victoria Land colony originated from Macquarie, home to about 80,000
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2010 for the course BIO 201 taught by Professor True during the Spring '08 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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Life and Death of an Elephant Seal Colony - The Antarctic...

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