Geolocator tagging links distributions in the non-breeding season to population genetic structure in a sentinel North Pacific seabird
We tested the hypothesis that segregation in wintering areas is associated with population differentiation in a sentinel North Pacific seabird, the rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata). We collected tissue samples for genetic analyses on five breeding colonies in the western Pacific Ocean (Japan) and on 13 colonies in the eastern Pacific Ocean (California to Alaska), and deployed light-level geolocator tags on 12 eastern Pacific colonies to delineate wintering areas. Geolocator tags were deployed previously on one colony in Japan. There was strong genetic differentiation between populations in the eastern vs. western Pacific Ocean, likely due to two factors. First, glaciation over the North Pacific in the late Pleistocene might have forced a southward range shift that historically isolated the eastern and western populations. And second, deep-ocean habitat along the northern continental shelf appears to act as a barrier to movement; abundant on both sides of the North Pacific, the rhinoceros auklet is virtually absent as a breeder in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, and no tagged birds crossed the North Pacific in the non-breeding season. While genetic differentiation was strongest between the eastern vs. western Pacific, there was also extensive differentiation within both regional groups. In pairwise comparisons among the eastern Pacific colonies, the standardized measure of genetic differentiation (F'ST) was negatively correlated with the extent of spatial overlap in wintering areas. That result supports the hypothesis that segregation in the non-breeding season is linked to genetic structure. Philopatry and a neritic foraging habit probably also contribute to the structuring. Widely distributed, vulnerable to anthropogenic stressors, and exhibiting extensive genetic structure, the rhinoceros auklet is fully indicative of the scope of the conservation challenges posed by seabirds.
Hipfner, J. Mark; Prill, Marie M.; Studholme, Katharine R.; Domalik, Alice D.; and Tucker, Strahan, "Geolocator tagging links distributions in the non-breeding season to population genetic structure in a sentinel North Pacific seabird" (2020).