Closing the gap: mixed stock analysis of three foraging populations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) on the Great Barrier Reef

Jones, Karina, Jensen, Michael, Burgess, Graham, Leonhardt, Johanna, van Herwerden, Lynne, Hazel, Julia, Hamann, Mark, Bell, Ian, and Ariel, Ellen (2018) Closing the gap: mixed stock analysis of three foraging populations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) on the Great Barrier Reef. PeerJ, 6. 5651.

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A solid understanding of the spatial ecology of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) is fundamental to their effective conservation. Yet this species, like many marine migratory species, is challenging to monitor and manage because they utilise a variety of habitats that span wide spatio-temporal scales. To further elucidate the connectivity between green turtle rookeries and foraging populations, we sequenced the mtDNA control region of 278 turtles across three foraging sites from the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) spanning more than 330 km: Cockle Bay, Green Island and Low Isles. This was performed with a newly developed assay, which targets a longer fragment of mtDNA than previous studies.Weused a mixed stock analysis (MSA), which utilises genetic data to estimate the relative proportion of genetically distinct breeding populations found at a given foraging ground. Haplotype and nucleotide diversity was also assessed. A total of 35 haplotypes were identified across all sites, 13 of which had not been found previously in any rookery. The MSA showed that the northern GBR (nGBR), Coral Sea (CS), southern GBR (sGBR) and New Caledonia (NC) stocks supplied the bulk of the turtles at all three sites, with small contributions from other rookeries in the region. Stock contribution shifted gradually from north to south, although sGBR/CS stock dominated at all three sites. The major change in composition occured between Cockle Bay and Low Isles. Our findings, together with other recent studies in this field, show that stock composition shifts with latitude as a natural progression along a coastal gradient. This phenomenon is likely to be the result of ocean currents influencing both post-hatchling dispersal and subsequent juvenile recruitment to diverse coastal foraging sites.

Item ID: 56614
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2167-8359
Keywords: conservation biology, marine biology, molecular biology, natural resource management, population biology
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Jones et al. Distributed under Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2018 01:27
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3009 Veterinary sciences > 300914 Veterinary virology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3105 Genetics > 310599 Genetics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960402 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 100%
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