Dispersal of green turtles from Africa’s largest rookery assessed through genetic markers
Marine Ecology Progress Series
Reason for embargo
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, 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 856bp mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences of this population (n=171) containing the ~490bp haplotypes used in previous studies. Haplotype CM-A8 was dominant (99.4%) but it divided in two 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 (1,815 samples) and 17 foraging grounds (1,686 samples) supported a strong contribution of Poilão to West Africa (51%) but also to 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 emphasises 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.
We thank the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea-Bissau (IBAP-GB) for all the logistic support for sample collection and all the people involved in the field-work, particularly the community members from the Bijagós, and the rangers and technicians from the IBAP. Sampling permits were obtained by the IBAP-GB, CITES export license was obtain from the Directorate General of Forest and Fauna of Guinea-Bissau (DGFF-GB), and CITES import license (13-PT-LX0006/P) was emitted by the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF-PT). Research was conducted with the financial support from the MAVA Foundation, the Rufford Foundation (RSG12317-1, RSG16357-2), and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through the strategic project UID/MAR/04292/2013 granted to MARE, project IF/00502/2013/CP1186/CT0003 and the grant awarded to ARP (fellowship SFRH/BD/85017/2012). BJG was supported by the Darwin Initiative.
Vol. 569, pp. 215-225