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  • Author(s): Bowen, Brian W;
  • Kamezaki, Naoki;
  • Limpus, Colin J;
  • Hughes, George R;
  • Meylan, Anne B;
  • Avise, John C
  • et al.

Restriction-site analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) reveal substantial phylogeographic structure among major nesting populations in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean sea. Based on 176 samples from eight nesting populations, most breeding colonies were distinguished from other assayed nesting locations by diagnostic and often fixed restriction-site differences, indicating a strong propensity for natal homing by nesting females. Phylogenetic analyses revealed two distinctive matrilines in the loggerhead turtle that differ by a mean estimated sequence divergence p = 0.009, a value similar in magnitude to the deepest intraspecific mtDNA node (p = 0.007) reported in a global survey of the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas. In contrast to the green turtle, where a fundamental phylogenetic split distinguished turtles in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea from those in the Indian and Pacific oceans, genotypes representing the two primary loggerhead mtDNA lineages were observed in both Atlantic-Mediterranean and Indian-Pacific samples. We attribute this aspect of phylogeographic structure in Caretta caretta to recent interoceanic gene flow, probably mediated by the ability of this temperate-adapted species to utilize habitats around southern Africa. These results demonstrate how differences in the ecology and geographic ranges of marine turtle species can influence their comparative global population structures.

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