Population structure and phylogeography reveal pathways of colonization by a migratory marine reptile (Chelonia mydas) in the central and eastern Pacific

  • Dutton P
  • Jensen M
  • Frey A
 et al. 
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Climate, behavior, ecology, and oceanography shape patterns of
biodiversity in marine faunas in the absence of obvious geographic
barriers. Marine turtles are an example of highly migratory creatures
with deep evolutionary lineages and complex life histories that span
both terrestrial and marine environments. Previous studies have focused
on the deep isolation of evolutionary lineages (>3 mya) through
vicariance; however, little attention has been given to the pathways of
colonization of the eastern Pacific and the processes that have shaped
diversity within the most recent evolutionary time. We sequenced 770 bp
of the mtDNA control region to examine the stock structure and
phylogeography of 545 green turtles from eight different rookeries in
the central and eastern Pacific. We found significant differentiation
between the geographically separated nesting populations and identified
five distinct stocks (F-ST=0.08-0.44, PPacific Chelonia mydas form a monophyletic group containing 3 subclades,
with Hawaii more closely related to the eastern Pacific than western
Pacific populations. The split between sampled central/eastern and
western Pacific haplotypes was estimated at around 0.34 mya, suggesting
that the Pacific region west of Hawaii has been a more formidable
barrier to gene flow in C. mydas than the East Pacific Barrier. Our
results suggest that the eastern Pacific was colonized from the western
Pacific via the Central North Pacific and that the Revillagigedos
Islands provided a stepping-stone for radiation of green turtles from
the Hawaiian Archipelago to the eastern Pacific. Our results fit with a
broader paradigm that has been described for marine biodiversity, where
oceanic islands, such as Hawaii and Revillagigedo, rather than being
peripheral evolutionary graveyards, serve as sources and recipients of
diversity and provide a mechanism for further radiation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chelonia mydas
  • Genetic stock structure
  • Marine turtles
  • MtDNA
  • Phylogeography

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