Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 21–30 | Cite as

Effects of road proximity on genetic diversity and reproductive success of the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

  • Martin Laporte
  • Claude-Olivier Silva Beaudry
  • Bernard Angers
Research Article


Roads have a severe impact on wildlife. Reptiles are particularly susceptible due to their attraction to roads and their low car-avoidance capacity. For example, a high number of road killed freshwater turtles resulted from females selecting the unpaved side of roads as nesting sites. However, roads are harmful not only for adults, but are also expected to affect egg survival and recruitment. In this work, we indirectly determined whether the proximity to roads affects the reproductive success of freshwater turtles. The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) was chosen for its population density, which is higher than most turtle species considered endangered. Locations near roads (<100 m) and in natural areas (>500 m) were sampled in three geographically distant ecoregions. We estimated the diversity of microsatellite loci from nuclear and mitochondrial genomes to assess the size of the kin groups as a proxy of the reproductive success of females. Similar diversity at nuclear markers suggested a comparable historical and demographic background among populations. However, lower mitochondrial diversity, higher mean and variance in the size of kin groups as well as a lower number of kin groups were strongly associated with the proximity to roads. Results indicated that a lower proportion of females participated in the recruitment of populations close to the roads than in natural areas, resulting in fewer but larger families near roads. We expect similar results for species nesting on the roadside. Barriers or fences that prevent individuals from reaching the road may help reduce their impacts on these populations.


Road ecology Reproductive success Anthropogenic perturbation Habitat fragmentation DNA diversity Size of kin group 



We are particularly grateful to Caroline Senay, Stéphanie Allard, Frédéric Cyr, Philippe Girard, and Jean-François Desroches for assistance in the field; Gabriel Lanthier for computation advice; Anna Lee-Popham and Amanda Kusler for English correction; and Robin Aguilee, Sandrine Maurice as well as two anonymous reviewers for their improvements on the text. This work was supported by “Transports Québec” and a new researchers grant from the “Fonds Québécois de Recherche en Nature et Technologie” (FQRNT, Quebec) to BA.


  1. Aresco MJ (2005) Mitigation measures to reduce highway mortality of turtles and other herpetofauna at a North Florida Lake. J Wildl Manage 69:549–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balkenhol N, Waits LP (2009) Molecular road ecology: exploring the potential of genetics for investigating transportation impacts on wildlife. Mol Ecol 18:4151–4164PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bassam BJ, Caetano-Anolles G, Gresshoff PM (1991) Fast and sensitive silver staining of DNA in polyacrylamide gels. Anal Biochem 196:80–83PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bayless LE (1975) Population parameters for Chrysemys picta in a New York pond. Am Midl Nat 93:168–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burke VJ, Gibbons JW (1995) Terrestrial buffer zones and wetland conservation: a case study of freshwater turtles in a Carolina bay. Conserv Biol 9:1365–1369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burke VJ, Lovich JE, Gibbons JW (2000) Conservation of freshwater turtles. In: Klemens MK (ed) Turtle conservation. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, pp 156–179Google Scholar
  7. Cagle FR (1954) Observations on the life cycle of painted Turtles (Genus Chrysemys). Am Midl Nat 52:225–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ciofi C, Milinkovitch MC, Gibbs JP, Caccone A, Powell JR (2002) Microsatellite analysis of genetic divergence among populations of giant Galapagos tortoises. Mol Ecol 11:2265–2283PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cornuet JM, Luikart G (1996) Description and power analysis of two tests for detecting recent population bottlenecks from allele frequency data. Genetics 144:2001–2014PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Di Rienzo A, Peterson AC, Garza JC, Valdes AM, Slatkin M, Freimer NB (1994) Mutational processes of simple-sequence repeat loci in human populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 91:3166–3170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dickson BG, Beier P (2002) Home-range and habitat selection by adult cougars in southern California. J Wildl Manage 66:1235–1245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ernst CH, Lovich JE, Barbour RW (1994) Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, p 578Google Scholar
  13. Estoup A, Angers B (1998) Microsatellites and minisatellites for molecular ecology: theoretical and empirical considerations. In: Carvalho G (ed) Advances in molecular ecology. IOS press, Amsterdam, pp 55–86Google Scholar
  14. Fahrig L, Rytwinski T (2009) Effects of roads on animal abundance: an empirical review and synthesis. Ecol Soc 14(1):21Google Scholar
  15. Forman RTT, Alexander LE (1998) Roads and their major ecological effects. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 29:207–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Freedberg S, Ewert MA, Ridenhour BJ, Neiman M, Nelson CE (2005) Nesting fidelity and molecular evidence for natal homing in the freshwater turtle, Graptemys kohnii. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 272:1345–1350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibbons JW (1968) Population structure and survivorship in the painted turtle, Chrysemys picta. Copeia 260–268Google Scholar
  18. Gibbs JP, Shriver WG (2002) Estimating the effects of road mortality on turtle populations. Conserv Biol 16:1647–1653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goudet J (1995) FSTAT (Version 1.2): a computer program to calculate F statistics. J Hered 86:485–486Google Scholar
  20. Guo SW, Thompson EA (1992) Performing the exact test of Hardy-Weinberg proportions for multiple alleles. Biometrics 48:361–372PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haxton T (2000) Road mortality of snapping Turtles, Chelydra serpentina, in Central Ontario during their nesting period. Can Field Nat 114:106–110Google Scholar
  22. Holderegger R, Di Giulio M (2010) The genetic effects of roads: a review of empirical evidence. Basic Appl Ecol 11:522–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Iverson JB (1979) Another inexpensive turtle trap. Herp Rev 10:55Google Scholar
  24. Iverson JB (1991) Patterns of survivorship in turtles (order Testudines). Can J Zool 69:385–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. King TL, Julian SE (2004) Conservation of microsatellite DNA flanking sequence across 13 Emydid genera assayed with novel bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) loci. Conserv Genet 5:719–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kuo C, Janzen F (2004) Genetic effects of a persistent bottleneck on a natural population of Ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata). Conserv Genet 5:425–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lippé C, Dumont P, Bernatchez L (2006) High genetic diversity and no inbreeding in the endangered Copper redhorse, Moxostoma hubbsi (Catostomidae, Pisces): the positive sides of a long generation time. Mol Ecol 15:1769–1780PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luikart G, Sherwin WB, Steele BM, Allendorf FW (1998) Usefulness of molecular markers for detecting population bottlenecks via monitoring genetic change. Mol Ecol 7:963–974PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marchand MN, Litvaitis JA (2004) Effects of habitat features and landscape composition on the population structure of a common aquatic turtle in a region undergoing rapid development. Conserv Biol 18:758–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marsh DM, Page RB, Hanlon TJ, Corritone R, Little EC, Seifert DE, Cabe PR (2008) Effects of roads on patterns of genetic differentiation in red-backed salamanders, Plethodon cirenus. Conserv Genet 9:603–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Michalakis Y, Excoffier L (1996) A genetic estimation of population subdivision using distances between alleles with special reference for microsatellite loci. Genetics 142:1061–1064PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Mitchell JC (1985) Variation in the male reproductive cycle in a population of painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, from Virginia. Herpetologica 41:45–51Google Scholar
  33. Mockford SW, Wright JM, Snyder M, Herman TB (1999) A non-destructive source of DNA from hatchling freshwater turtles for use in PCR base assays. Herp Rev 30:148–149Google Scholar
  34. Omernik JM (2004) Perspectives on the nature and definition of ecological regions. Environ Manage 34(1):27–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pearse DE, Janzen FJ, Avise JC (2001) Genetic markers substantiate long-term storage and utilization of sperm by female painted turtles. Heredity 86:378–384PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pearse DE, Janzen FJ, Avise JC (2002) Multiple paternity, sperm storage, and reproductive success of female and male painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) in nature. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:164–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Piry S, Luikart G, Cornuet JM (1999) Bottleneck: a computer program for detecting recent reductions in effective population size from allele frequency data. J Hered 90:502–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Raymond M, Rousset F (1995) GENEPOP (version 1.2): population genetics software for exact tests 443 and ecumenicism. J Hered 86:248–249Google Scholar
  39. Robinson C, Bider JR (1988) Nesting synchrony—a strategy to decrease predation of snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) nests. J Herp 22:470–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rowe JW, Coval KA, Dugan MR (2005) Nest placement, nest-site fidelity and nesting movements in Midland painted turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) on Beaver Island Michigan. Am Mid Nat 154(2):383–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. R version 2.15.1. (2012). The R fundation for statistical computing. ISBN 3-900051-07-0Google Scholar
  42. Sambrook J, Fritsch EF, Maniatis T (1989) Molecular cloning: laboratory manual, 2nd edn. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Schneider S, Roessli D, Excofier L (2000) Arlequin: a software for population genetics data analysis. Genetics and Biometry Lab, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Geneva, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  44. Snow JE (1982) Predation of painted Turtle nests: nest survival as a function of nest age. Can J Zool 77:1609–1614Google Scholar
  45. Starkey DE, Shaffer HB, Burke RL, Forstner MRJ, Iverson JB, Janzen FJ, Rhodin AGJ, Ultsch GR (2003) Molecular systematic, phylogeography, and the effects of Pleistocene glaciation in the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) complex. Evolution 57:119–128PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Steen DA, Gibbs JP (2004) Effects of roads on the structure of freshwater turtle populations. Conserv Biol 18:1143–1148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang J (2004) Sibship reconstruction from genetic data with typing errors. Genetics 166:1963–1979PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang J, Santure AW (2009) Parentage and sibship inference from multi-locus genotype data under polygamy. Genetics 181:1579–1594PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Weir BS, Cockerham CC (1984) Estimating F statistics for the analysis of population structure. Evolution 38:1358–1370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilbur HM (1975) The evolutionary and mathematical demography of the turtle Chrysemys picta. Ecology 56(1):64–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilhoft DC, Del Baglivo MG, Del Baglivo MD (1979) Observations on mammalian predation of Snapping Turtle nests (Reptilia, Testudines, Chelydridae). J Herp 13:435–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zachos FE, Althoff C, Von Steynitz Y, Eckert I, Hartl GB (2007) Genetic analysis of an isolated red deer (Cervus elaphus) population showing signs of inbreeding depression. Eur J Wildl Res 53:61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Laporte
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claude-Olivier Silva Beaudry
    • 3
  • Bernard Angers
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de l’ÉvolutionUMR 5554 UM2-CNRS-IRD, Université Montpellier IIMontpellier, Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche sur les Interactions bassins Versants–Ecosystèmes Aquatiques (RIVE)Université du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-RivièresCanada
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations