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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 569:215-225 (2017)  -  DOI:

Dispersal of green turtles from Africa’s largest rookery assessed through genetic markers

Ana R. Patrício1,2,*, Angela Formia3,4, Castro Barbosa5, Annette C. Broderick1, Mike Bruford6, Carlos Carreras7,8, Paulo Catry2, Claudio Ciofi4, Aissa Regalla5, Brendan J. Godley1

1Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, TR10 9EZ Penryn, UK
2MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, ISPA - Instituto Universitário, 1140-041 Lisbon, Portugal
3Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Program, BP 7847, Libreville, Gabon
4Department of Biology, University of Florence, Sesto Fiorentino, 50019 Fl, Italy
5Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea-Bissau (IBAP), CP - 70, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
6School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, CF10 3AX Cardiff, UK
7Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
8Institute of Biodiversity Research of Barcelona, IRBio, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine turtles are highly migratory species that establish multiple connections among distant areas, through oceanic migration corridors. To improve the knowledge on the connectivity of Atlantic green turtles Chelonia mydas, we analysed the genetic composition and contribution to juvenile aggregations of one of the world’s largest rookeries at Poilão Island, Guinea-Bissau. We amplified 856 bp mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences of this population (n = 171) containing the ~490 bp haplotypes used in previous studies. Haplotype CM-A8 was dominant (99.4%), but it divided in 2 variants when the whole 856 bp was considered: CM-A8.1 (98.8%) and CM-A8.3 (0.6%). We further identified the haplotype CM-A42.1 (0.6%), found previously only in juvenile foraging grounds at Argentina, Brazil and Equatorial Guinea. The Poilão breeding population was genetically different from all others in the Atlantic (FST range: 0.016-0.961, p < 0.001). An extensive ‘many-to-many’ mixed-stock analysis (MSA) including 14 nesting populations (1815 samples) and 17 foraging grounds (1686 samples) supported a strong contribution of Poilão to West Africa (51%) but also to the Southwest Atlantic (36%). These findings, in particular the strong connectivity within West Africa, where illegal harvesting is still common, should motivate conservation partnerships, so that population protection can be effectively extended through all life stages. Our study expands the knowledge on migration patterns and connectivity of green turtles in the Atlantic, evidences the importance of larger sample sizes and emphasizes the need to include more finely resolved markers in MSAs and more genetic sampling from West African foraging grounds to further resolve the connectivity puzzle for this species.

KEY WORDS: Connectivity · Dispersal · Green turtle · Migration · Mitochondrial DNA · mtDNA · Mixed-stock analysis · MSA · Population genetics · West Africa

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Cite this article as: Patrício AR, Formia A, Barbosa C, Broderick AC and others (2017) Dispersal of green turtles from Africa’s largest rookery assessed through genetic markers. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 569:215-225.

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