Isolation by environment in the highly mobile olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the eastern pacific

Clara J. Rodríguez-Zárate, Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, Erik van Sebille, Robert G. Keane, Axayácatl Rocha-Olivares, Jose Urteaga, Luciano B. Beheregaray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Spatial and temporal scales at which processes modulate genetic diversity over the landscape are usually overlooked, impacting the design of conservation management practices for widely distributed species. We examine processes shaping population divergence in highly mobile species by re-assessing the case of panmixia in the iconic olive ridley turtle from the eastern Pacific. We implemented a biophysical model of connectivity and a seascape genetic analysis based on nuclear DNA variation of 634 samples collected from 27 nesting areas. Two genetically distinct populations largely isolated during reproductive migrations and mating were detected, each composed of multiple nesting sites linked by high connectivity. This patternwas strongly associated with a steep environmental gradient and also influenced by ocean currents. These findings relate to meso-scale features of a dynamic oceanographic interface in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) region, a scenario that possibly provides different cost–benefit solutions and selective pressures for sea turtles during both the mating and migration periods.We reject panmixia and propose a new paradigm for olive ridley turtles where reproductive isolation due to assortative mating is linked to its environment. Our study demonstrates the relevance of integrative approaches for assessing the role of environmental gradients and oceanographic currents as drivers of genetic differentiation in widely distributed marine species. This is relevant for the conservation management of species of highly mobile behaviour, and assists the planning and development of large-scale conservation strategies for the threatened olive ridley turtles in the ETP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180264
JournalProceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1878
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018


  • Conservation genetics
  • Landscape genetics
  • Marine connectivity
  • Panmixia
  • Sea turtles
  • Seascape genetics


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