MEPS 588:201-213 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12448

Philopatry in loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta: beyond the gender paradigm

Marcel Clusa1,2, Carlos Carreras1, Luis Cardona2, Andreas Demetropoulos3, Dimitris Margaritoulis4, Alan F. Rees4, Abdulmaula A. Hamza5,6, Mona Khalil7, Yaniv Levy8, Oguz Turkozan9, Alex Aguilar2, Marta Pascual1,*

1Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics - IRBio, University of Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
2Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences - IRBio, University of Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
3Cyprus Wildlife Society, PO Box 24281, 1703 Nicosia, Cyprus
4ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, Solomou 57, 10432 Athens, Greece
5Libyan Sea Turtle Program, Environment General Authority, Alfateh University, PO Box 13793, Tripoli, Libya
6Faculty of Marine Science and Environment, University Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), 21030 Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
7MEDASSET, PO Box 19, Tyre, Lebanon
8The Israel Sea Turtle Rescue Centre, Nature Parks Authority, Mevoot Yam, Mikhmoret 40297, Israel
9Adnan Menderes University, Faculty of Science and Arts, Department of Biology, Aydin, 09010, Turkey
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine turtles have been traditionally considered model organisms to study sex-biased behaviour and dispersal. Although female philopatry has been identified in the loggerhead turtle, with adult females returning to specific locations to nest, studies on the philopatry and breeding migrations of males remain limited. In this study we analysed 152 hatchlings using 15 microsatellite markers. Each individual came from a different nest from samples taken at 8 nesting grounds in the Mediterranean. Our results revealed the existence of 5 genetically differentiated units, mostly due to restricted gene flow for both sexes. This supports existing satellite tracking studies that suggest that mating occurs close to nesting grounds in this region. The 5 management units identified within the Mediterranean included nesting grounds from (1) Libya and Cyprus, (2) Israel, (3) Lebanon, (4) Turkey and (5) Greece. The genetic similarity between distant nesting areas (i.e. Libya and Cyprus) suggests the presence of a more complex pattern of breeding behaviour. Three possible hypotheses, that remain to be tested in future studies, could explain this result: (1) mating might take place in common foraging grounds; (2) mating could occur en route while migrating to/from the breeding grounds; or (3) recent colonisation events could connect the 2 nesting grounds. Overall, our work suggests that widespread male-mediated gene flow between loggerhead nesting grounds is likely to have been previously overstated although opportunistic breeding patterns might connect some widely separated areas.


KEY WORDS: Caretta caretta · Gene flow · Microsatellites · Philopatry · Nesting grounds · Population structure


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Cite this article as: Clusa M, Carreras C, Cardona L, Demetropoulos A and others (2018) Philopatry in loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta: beyond the gender paradigm. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 588:201-213. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12448

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