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ESR 32:251-264 (2017)  -  DOI:

Connectivity, population structure, and conservation of Ecuadorian green sea turtles

Jaime A. Chaves1,2,*, Micaela Peña3, Jhonnattan A. Valdés-Uribe1, Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez1,2,3, Felipe Vallejo3, Maike Heidemeyer4,5, Omar Torres-Carvajal

1Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Diego de Robles y Av. Interoceánica, Cumbayá, Quito, Ecuador
2Galápagos Science Center, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galápagos, Ecuador
3Fundación Equilibrio Azul, PO Box 17116025, Quito, Ecuador
4Centro de Investigación en Biología Celular y Molecular CIBCM, Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica
5Centro de Restauración de Especies Marinas Amenazadas CREMA, Tibas, Costa Rica
6Museo de Zoología, Escuela de Biología, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Avenida 12 de Octubre y Roca, Apartado 17-01-2184, Quito, Ecuador
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Studies of highly migratory species that increase our understanding of the dynamics of genetic diversity, migratory routes, and genetic connectivity are essential for informing conservation actions. Genetic data for green turtles Chelonia mydas from Ecuador have only been available from Galápagos Islands (GPS) rookeries, but not from foraging aggregations. Furthermore, green turtles from habitats associated with mainland Ecuador (Machalilla National Park; MNP) have not been sampled. To assess the genetic relationships between nesting and foraging aggregations from these 2 regions and other regional populations, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region was sequenced from 133 turtles. Conventional FST (haplotype frequency) and ΦST (sequence-based) values were low and non-significant between Ecuadorian rookeries, suggesting high connectivity between these sites located ca. 1000 km apart. Mixed stock analysis (MSA) indicated a dominant (>94%) GPS-MNP contribution to both foraging grounds, with small and nearly negligible contributions from other rookeries in the region (e.g. Costa Rica and Mexico). While orphan haplotypes were not included in the MSA because their rookery of origin is not known, their close genetic relationships to Western and Central Pacific mtDNA clades suggests that a relatively large percentage of turtles at the combined foraging sites (>10%) have been involved in transoceanic migration events. The genetic links between GPS and MNP C. mydas nesting populations revealed by our study highlight the need to incorporate the nesting populations from coastal Ecuador in more comprehensive future conservation planning.

KEY WORDS: Chelonia mydas · Galápagos · Machalilla · Connectivity · Ecuador · Conservation · Mixed stock analysis · Phylogenetics

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Cite this article as: Chaves JA, Peña M, Valdés-Uribe JA, Muñoz-Pérez JP, Vallejo F, Heidemeyer M, Torres-Carvajal O (2017) Connectivity, population structure, and conservation of Ecuadorian green sea turtles. Endang Species Res 32:251-264.

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