Seascape Genetics and the Spatial Ecology of Juvenile Green Turtles

Understanding how ocean currents impact the distribution and connectivity of marine species, provides vital information for the effective conservation management of migratory marine animals. Here, we used a combination of molecular genetics and ocean drift simulations to investigate the spatial ecology of juvenile green turtle (Chelonia mydas) developmental habitats, and assess the role of ocean currents in driving the dispersal of green turtle hatchlings. We analyzed mitochondrial (mt)DNA sequenced from 358 juvenile green turtles, and from eight developmental areas located throughout the Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO). A mixed stock analysis (MSA) was applied to estimate the level of connectivity between developmental sites and published genetic data from 38 known genetic stocks. The MSA showed that the juvenile turtles at all sites originated almost exclusively from the three known SWIO stocks, with a clear shift in stock contributions between sites in the South and Central Areas. The results from the genetic analysis could largely be explained by regional current patterns, as shown by the results of passive numerical drift simulations linking breeding sites to developmental areas utilized by juvenile green turtles. Integrating genetic and oceanographic data helps researchers to better understand how marine species interact with ocean currents at different stages of their lifecycle, and provides the scientific basis for effective conservation management.


Chelonia mydas, green turtle, juvenile, mtDNA, drifting simulation, connectivity, mixed stock analysis, Southwest Indian Ocean

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Jensen Michael P., Dalleau Mayeul, Gaspar Philippe, Lalire Maxime, Jean Claire, Ciccione Stéphane, Mortimer Jeanne A., Quillard Mireille, Taquet Coralie, Wamukota Andrew, Leroux Géraud, Bourjea Jerome (2020). Seascape Genetics and the Spatial Ecology of Juvenile Green Turtles. Genes. 11 (3). 278 (24p.).,

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