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Transatlantic Developmental Migrations of Loggerhead Sea Turtles Demonstrated by mtDNA Sequence Analysis
Alan B. Bolten, Karen A. Bjorndal, Helen R. Martins, Thomas Dellinger, Manuel J. Biscoito, Sandra E. Encalada and Brian W. Bowen
Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 1-7
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2641306
Page Count: 7
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Molecular markers based on mitochondrial (mt) DNA control region sequences were used to test the hypothesis that juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in pelagic habitats of the eastern Atlantic are derived from nesting populations in the western Atlantic. We compared mtDNA haplotypes from 131 pelagic juvenile turtles (79 from the Azores and 52 from Madeira) to mtDNA haplotypes observed in major nesting colonies of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. A subset of 121 pelagic samples (92%) contained haplotypes that match mtDNA sequences observed in nesting colonies. Maximum likelihood analyses (UCON, SHADRACQ) estimate that 100% of these pelagic juveniles are from the nesting populations in the southeastern United States and adjacent Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Estimated contributions from nesting populations in south Florida (0.71, 0.72), northern Florida to North Carolina (0.19, 0.17), and Quintana Roo, Mexico (0.11, 0.10) are consistent with the relative size of these nesting aggregates. No contribution was detected from nesting colonies in the Mediterranean (Greece) or South Atlantic (Brazil), although samples sizes are insufficient to exclude these locations with finality. The link between west Atlantic nesting colonies and east Atlantic feeding grounds provides a more complete scientific basis for assessing the impact of subadult mortality in oceanic fisheries. Demographic models for loggerhead turtles in the western Atlantic can now be improved by incorporating growth and mortality data from juvenile turtles in pelagic habitats. These data demonstrate that the appropriate scale for loggerhead turtle conservation efforts is vastly larger than the current scale of management plans based on political boundaries.
Ecological Applications © 1998 Wiley