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Cultural Selection and Genetic Diversity in Matrilineal Whales

Science  27 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5394, pp. 1708-1711
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5394.1708

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Abstract

Low diversities of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) have recently been found in four species of matrilineal whale. No satisfactory explanation for this apparent anomaly has been previously suggested. Culture seems to be an important part of the lives of matrilineal whales. The selection of matrilineally transmitted cultural traits, upon which neutral mtDNA alleles “hitchhike,” has the potential to strongly reduce genetic variation. Thus, in contrast to other nonhuman mammals, culture may be an important evolutionary force for the matrilineal whales.

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