Tracking transcriptomic responses to endogenous and exogenous variation in cetaceans in the Southern California Bight
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Tracking transcriptomic responses to endogenous and exogenous variation in cetaceans in the Southern California Bight

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  • Journal Title:
    Conservation Physiology
  • Description:
    Marine wildlife populations are adapted to survive in highly dynamic environments. However, identifying the effects of endogenous versus exogenous variables on marine mammal physiology remains a substantial challenge in part because of the logistical constraints that limit the collection of physiological data in free-ranging animals. Measuring genome-wide gene expression is one minimally invasive method that can be used to elucidate how free-ranging cetaceans' physiological responses shift with changing environmental conditions or demographic states, i.e. reproductive status and maturity. We identified transcriptomic differences among bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Southern California Bight using RNAseq data from the skin of 75 individuals to examine gene expression associated with sex, pregnancy status, sea surface temperature, geographic location and ecotype. We identified transcriptomic variation between two genetically distinct ecotypes as well as variation related to environmental conditions among groups that exhibit little evidence of genetic divergence. Specifically, we found differential expression of genes associated with structural development, cellular starvation and immune response. Sex and pregnancy status explained a small proportion of the observed variation, in contrast to sea surface temperature, which explained a substantial amount of transcriptomic variation. However, these measured variables did not account for all of the differential expression observed between ecotypes and among geographically distinct groups. Additional research is needed to identify other endogenous or exogenous factors that may be contributing to observed transcriptomic differences among ecotypes.
  • Source:
    Conserv Physiol;. 2019 May 15;7(1):coz018.;
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    CC BY
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