Genetic Structure and Natal Origins of Immature Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in Brazilian Waters

Maira Proietti, Julia Reisser, Luis Marins, Clara Rodriguez Zarate, Maria Marcovaldi, Danielle Monteiro, C. Pattiaratchi, Eduardo Secchi

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    19 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Understanding the connections between sea turtle populations is fundamental for their effective conservation. Brazil hosts important hawksbill feeding areas, but few studies have focused on how they connect with nesting populations in the Atlantic. Here, we (1) characterized mitochondrial DNA control region haplotypes of immature hawksbills feeding along the coast of Brazil (five areas ranging from equatorial to temperate latitudes, 157 skin samples), (2) analyzed genetic structure among Atlantic hawksbill feeding populations, and (3) inferred natal origins of hawksbills in Brazilian waters using genetic, oceanographic, and population size information. We report ten haplotypes for the sampled Brazilian sites, most of which were previously observed at other Atlantic feeding grounds and rookeries. Genetic profiles of Brazilian feeding areas were significantly different from those in other regions (Caribbean and Africa), and a significant structure was observed between Brazilian feeding grounds grouped into areas influenced by the South Equatorial/North Brazil Current and those influenced by the Brazil Current. Our genetic analysis estimates that the studied Brazilian feeding aggregations are mostly composed of animals originating from the domestic rookeries Bahia and Pipa, but some contributions from African and Caribbean rookeries were also observed. Oceanographic data corroborated the local origins, but showed higher connection with West Africa and none with the Caribbean. High correlation was observed between origins estimated through genetics/rookery size and oceanographic/rookery size data, demonstrating that ocean currents and population sizes influence haplotype distribution of Brazil's hawksbill populations. The information presented here highlights the importance of national conservation strategies and international cooperation for the recovery of endangered hawksbill turtle populations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere88746
    Pages (from-to)e88746
    Number of pages12
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume9
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2014

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