Conservation Genetics

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 235–251 | Cite as

Historical perspectives on population genetics and conservation of three marine turtle species

  • Joshua S. Reece
  • Todd A. Castoe
  • Christopher L. Parkinson


Considerable phylogeographic and population genetic research has been conducted on marine turtles. Less attention, however, has been paid to the historical patterns and processes that have led to present patterns of genetic structure, and particularly, how these populations have responded to major climatic changes in the past. To address these questions, we analyzed previously published mitochondrial haplotype data independently for three marine turtle species, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Considering all three species, we conducted analyses on a total of 657 individuals from 36 nesting beaches in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Our results suggest that much of the contemporary genetic structure has been significantly affected by complex patterns of historical population subdivision, long-distance dispersal, and restricted geneflow. These inferences also imply that the climatic and sea level fluctuations during the Pleistocene may have had contrasting effects on genetic structure (e.g., fragmenting versus homogenizing) and on population sizes. Estimates of historical and current effective population sizes further highlight differential demographic responses across species to historical climatic cycles. Collectively, our results provide evidence for the occurrence of historical refugia through climatic cycles and complex historical metapopulation dynamics, and identify common and unique patterns of metapopulation structure across species. These historical patterns provide a basis for predictive estimates of metapopulation responses to habitat loss, population extirpation, and global climatic change.


conservation green turtle hawksbill historical biogeography loggerhead marine turtle population genetics nested clade analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua S. Reece
    • 1
  • Todd A. Castoe
    • 1
  • Christopher L. Parkinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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