Study: Hawaiian monk seal lacks genetic diversity


POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009


WAILUKU >> DNA analysis shows the Hawaiian monk seal has the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal ever studied.

The results are reported in the Journal of Heredity.

University of Hawaii doctoral candidate Jennifer Schultz analyzed monk seal tissue collected by National Marine Fisheries Service field researchers.

Low genetic diversity increases the risk that an epidemic could hurt the population.

It also likely means the species is less able to cope with environmental changes.

The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species and its population is declining at a rate of about four percent per year.

Robert Toonen and Brian Bowen of the university and Jason Baker of the National Marine Fisheries Service co-authored the paper with Schultz.