Pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, sea lions and walrus) form large breeding aggregations with females often remaining faithful to a natal site or area. In these cases, females are philopatric to regional areas on broad geographical scales of hundreds to thousands of kilometers. An investigation of variation in a control region sequence of mtDNA in the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) has shown a case of extreme female natal site fidelity that has resulted in almost fixed population differentiation across its range (PhiST=0.93). This high level of population subdivision over short geographical distances (approx. 60 km) is unparalleled in any social marine mammal and reflects the unique life-history traits of this rare species. The high level of population subdivision and exclusive female natal site fidelity has important ramifications for conservation management, and poses many interesting questions of both academic and applied interest.
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