Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 22, 2014

Genetic monitoring of pilot whales, Globicephala spp. (Cetacea: Delphinidae), stranded on French coasts

  • Etienne Sabatier , Eric Pante , Claire Dussud , Olivier Van Canneyt , Benoit Simon-Bouhet and Amélia Viricel EMAIL logo
From the journal Mammalia


We used mitochondrial DNA control region sequences to genetically identify to the species level 23 pilot whales (genus Globicephala) that stranded on the French coasts between 1996 and 2011. Genetic analysis complemented morphological diagnoses, often hampered by an overlap in morphological characters between the two species or incomplete measurements. Mitochondrial DNA data allowed identification of 21 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) and two unusual stranding events of the more tropical species (Globicephala macrorhynchus). In pilot whales as in most cetaceans, shifts in species range are expected to occur due to global climate change. In this context, our study contributes to the long-term monitoring of pilot whale stranding events, providing indirect information on species occurrence.

Corresponding author: Amélia Viricel, Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés, UMR 7266, CNRS-Université de La Rochelle, 2 rue Olympe de Gouges, 17000 La Rochelle, France, e-mail:


We would like to thank Willy Dabin and Fabien Demaret (PELAGIS) for providing tissue samples, and members of the French marine mammal stranding network (“RNE”) for collecting morphometric data on stranded specimens. DNA samples were prepared at the Molecular Core Facility at the University of La Rochelle. Funding for reagents and sequencing was provided by the Observatoire PELAGIS. Salaries for A.V. and E.P. were covered by grants to the Poitou-Charentes region: Contrat de Projet Etat-Région 2007–2013 (A.V.) and Fonds Européen de Développement Régional 2007–2013 (E.P.).


Alfonsi, E., E. Meheust, S. Fuchs, F-G. Carpentier, Y. Quillivic, A. Viricel, S. Hassani and J-L. Jung. 2013. The use of DNA barcoding to monitor the marine mammal biodiversity along the French Atlantic coast. Zookeys 365: 5–24.10.3897/zookeys.365.5873Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Alves, F., S. Quérouil, A. Dinis, C. Nicolau, C. Ribeiro, L. Freitas, M. Kaufmann and C. Fortuna. 2013. Population structure of short-finned pilot whales in the oceanic archipelago of Madeira based on photo-identification and genetic analyses: implications for conservation. Aquat. Conserv. 23: 758–776.10.1002/aqc.2332Search in Google Scholar

Duguy R. 1968. Note sur Globicephala macrorhyncha Gray, 1846; un cétacé nouveau pour les côtes de France. Mammalia 32: 113–117.Search in Google Scholar

Fullard, K.J., G. Early, M.P. Heide-Jørgensen, D. Bloch, A. Rosing-Asvid and W. Amos. 2000. Population structure of long-finned pilot whales in the North Atlantic: a correlation with sea surface temperature? Mol. Ecol. 9: 949–958.10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.00957.xSearch in Google Scholar PubMed

Gonzalez, A.F., A. Lopez and X. Valeiras. 2000. First recorded mass stranding of short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus, Gray, 1846) in the northeastern Atlantic. Mar. Mamm. Sci. 16: 640–646.Search in Google Scholar

Hall, T. 1999. BioEdit: a user-friendly biological sequence alignment editor and analysis program for Windows 95/98/NT. Nucleic Acids Symp. Ser. 41: 95–98.Search in Google Scholar

Hoydal, K. and L. Lastein. 1993. Analysis of Faroese catches of pilot whales (1709–1992), in relation to environmental variations. Rep. Int. Whal. Commn., Special Issue 14: 89–106.Search in Google Scholar

Kasuya, T. and H. Marsh. 1984. Life history and reproductive biology of the short-finned pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus, off the Pacific coast of Japan. Rep. Int. Whal. Commn., Special Issue 6: 259–310.Search in Google Scholar

MacLeod, C.D. 2009. Global climate change, range changes and potential implications for the conservation of marine cetaceans: a review and synthesis. Endanger. Species Res. 7: 125–136.Search in Google Scholar

Miralles, L., S. Lens, A. Rodríguez-Folar, M. Carrillo, V. Martín, B. Mikkelsen and E. Garcia-Vazquez. 2013. Interspecific introgression in cetaceans: DNA markers reveal post-F1 status of a pilot whale. PloS One 8: e69511.10.1371/journal.pone.0069511Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Nores, C. and C. Pérez. 1988. Overlapping range between Globicephala macrorhynchus and Globicephala melaena in the northeastern Atlantic. Mammalia 52: 51–55.10.1515/mamm.1988.52.1.51Search in Google Scholar

Oremus, M., R. Gales, M.L. Dalebout, N. Funahashi, T. Endo, T. Kage, D. Steel and S.C. Baker. 2009. Worldwide mitochondrial DNA diversity and phylogeography of pilot whales (Globicephala spp.). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 98: 729–744.10.1111/j.1095-8312.2009.01325.xSearch in Google Scholar

Pante, E. and B. Simon-Bouhet. 2013. marmap: a package for importing, plotting and analyzing bathymetric and topographic data in R. PLoS One 8: e73051.Search in Google Scholar

R Development Core Team. 2013. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0.Search in Google Scholar

Robineau, D. 2005. Faune de France 89. Cétacés de France. Fédération Française des Sociétés de Sciences Naturelles. pp. 646.Search in Google Scholar

Rosel, P.E., A.E. Dizon and J.E. Heyning. 1994. Genetic analysis of sympatric morphotypes of common dolphins (genus Delphinus). Mar. Biol. 119: 159–167.10.1007/BF00349552Search in Google Scholar

Rosel, P.E., R. Tiedemann and M. Walton. 1999. Genetic evidence for limited trans-Atlantic movements of the harbor porpoise Phocoena phocoena. Mar. Biol. 133: 583–591.10.1007/s002270050498Search in Google Scholar

Van Bree, P.J.H. 1971. On Globicephala sieboldii Gray, 1846, and other species of pilot whales (Notes on Cetacea, Delphinoidea III). Beaufortia 19: 79–87.Search in Google Scholar

Van Canneyt, O., W. Dabin, F. Demaret, G. Dorémus, C. Dussud and L. Gonzalez. 2012. Les échouages de mammifères marins sur le littoral français en 2011. Rapport UMS – CRMM pour le Ministère de l’Ecologie, du Développement Durable et de l’Energie, Direction de l’eau et de la biodiversité, Programme Observatoire du Patrimoine Naturel. pp. 52.Search in Google Scholar

Vollmer, N.L., A. Viricel, L. Wilcox, M.K. Moore and P.E. Rosel. 2011. The occurrence of mtDNA heteroplasmy in multiple cetacean species. Curr. Genet. 57: 115–131.10.1007/s00294-010-0331-1Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Wilson, D.E. and D.M. Reeder. 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomy and geographic reference, Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. pp. 2000.Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2013-10-25
Accepted: 2014-2-4
Published Online: 2014-2-22
Published in Print: 2015-2-1

©2015 by De Gruyter

Downloaded on 9.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button