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Conservation genetics in the marine realm

Abstract

Techniques for DNA and protein assay make possible genetic studies on any species. In recent years, molecular methods have been applied to a number of conservation-relevant genetic issues for marine organisms ranging from zooplankton to whales. To introduce these symposium proceedings, I will mention some of the unusual challenges and opportunities afforded by marine taxa for genetic research in conservation. Marine organisms often are less accessible for behavioral and natural history observation than are their terrestrial counterparts. Many marine organisms have exceptional dispersal and migratory capabilities. Species' ranges can be vast. Life histories may include high fecundities and explosive reproductive potentials. Many marine species of conservation concern are harvested commercially or illegally and thus economic, social, jurisdictional, and forensic matters often arise in population management, in addition to biological considerations. For a diversity of marine taxa, molecular markers have uncovered previously unknown aspects of behavior, natural history, and population demography that can inform conservation and management decisions. The studies compiled in this volume highlight the scope and imaginative uses of genetic information for conservation challenges in the marine realm.

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