Date of Award

12-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Brian Kreiser

Committee Chair Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 2

Carl Qualls

Committee Member 2 Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 3

Jake Schaefer

Committee Member 3 Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract

Conservation of turtles is complicated by their sensitivity to habitat degradation and overexploitation. I used microsatellites and standard population genetic analyses to explore genetic diversity, population structure, paternity and demographic history in two emydid turtles that are currently experiencing threats to their survival. The Blanding’s turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, has experienced habitat fragmentation throughout its range, and this study focuses on a population in Massachusetts where hatchlings from one population are being translocated to establish a new population. I found evidence of multiple paternity within clutches and found no significant reduction in genetic diversity when comparing the source population and the offspring being relocated. Genetic structuring of populations of Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) has only been detected at the range wide level. However, previous studies failed to obtain abundant samples covering a large spatial scale. I acquired a collection of 556 terrapin tissue samples from across Louisiana where landscape features include two large freshwater rivers expected to act as a barrier to gene flow. I found a highly connected population with no indication of discrete genetic structuring across the major freshwater rivers in Louisiana. Additionally, I found evidence of a stepping stone migration model, isolation by distance and historical bottlenecks.

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