Range-wide phylogeography of Blanding’s Turtle [Emys (= Emydoidea) blandingii]

  • Mark A. JordanEmail author
  • Victoria Mumaw
  • Natalie Millspaw
  • Stephen W. Mockford
  • Fredric J. Janzen
Research Article


Documentation of intraspecific genetic lineages and their evolutionary history can provide insight for current and future conservation and management actions. The Blanding’s Turtle, Emys (= Emydoidea) blandingii, is a long-lived species with a relatively narrow latitudinal distribution centered around the Great Lakes, but extending from Nebraska to Nova Scotia. It is listed as endangered or threatened throughout most of its range mainly due to habitat loss. Microsatellite loci have been predominantly used to test and generate hypotheses concerning the number of evolutionarily significant units and the history of lineage diversification in this species. Here we describe haplotypes from two mitochondrial and three nuclear loci generated from 32 localities across the species’ range to provide an additional perspective on existing patterns. Haplotype and nucleotide diversity were low in both sets of loci, with mitochondrial polymorphism comparable to the lowest found in any North American freshwater turtle. Spatial analyses of population differentiation supported the presence of two groups with a boundary in eastern Ontario that is roughly associated with the Appalachian Mountains as proposed by Mockford et al. (Conserv Gen 8:209–219, 2007). We suggest that the low diversity in these loci is likely related to periodic range contractions and expansions associated with glacial cycles and that the two groups recovered result from a deeper history of diversification. Our results are broadly consistent with previously identified range-wide structure and help to reconcile population structure found at smaller spatial scales, outcomes that will better inform conservation decision making for the species.


Mitochondrial loci Nuclear loci Pleistocene glaciation Lineage diversification Low genetic diversity 



This research was supported by the Indiana Academy of Science and the IPFW Honors Program. We thank Christina Davy, Mike Finkler, Rusty Gonser, Dave Mifsud, Brendan Reid, and Sasha Tetzlaff for sharing samples with us. The Field Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum were helpful in providing additional samples. We also appreciate the insights shared by Phil Spinks on choosing polymorphic nuclear loci.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyPurdue University Fort WayneFort WayneUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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