Genetic divergence among conspecific subpopulations can be due to either low recurrent gene flow or recent divergence and no gene flow. Here we present a modification of an earlier method developed by Nielsen and Wakeley (2001), which accommodates a finite-site mutation model, to assess which of the two models of divergence is most likely given the observed data. We apply the method to nucleotide sequence data collected from the variable part of the mitochondrial control region in fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) from the Atlantic coast off Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. Our estimations strongly favor a model of recurrent gene flow over a model of recent divergence and zero gene flow. We estimated the migration rate at two females per generation. While the estimated rate is high by evolutionary standards, exchange rates of this order of magnitude is low from an ecological and conservation perspective and entirely consistent with the current paucity of fin whale sightings in the Strait of Gibraltar today. Intensive commercial shore-based whaling during the 1920s removed substantial numbers of fin whales in the Strait of Gibraltar and this local population has seemingly since failed to recover.
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Vol. 58 • No. 3