Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Chair

Brian Kreiser

Committee Chair School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 2

Carl Qualls

Committee Member 2 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 3

Jake Schaefer

Committee Member 3 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 4

Micheal Davis

Committee Member 4 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 5

Will Selman

Abstract

Turtles are among one of the most imperiled vertebrate groups on the planet with more than half of all species worldwide listed as threatened, endangered or extinct by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature. The Southeastern United States is a global biodiversity hotspot for turtles, and it likely represents the last area on the planet of both high diversity and high abundance of turtle species. In the past century, there has been an exponential increase in the number of publications on turtles in the United States and Canada, however a recent review of the literature suggests that this research attention has not been spread evenly across taxa. The mud turtles (genus Kinosternon) and musk turtles (genus Sternotherus) of the family Kinosternidae remain one of the least studied turtle families. The lotic Sternotherus species have received very little research attention, particularly the stripe-necked musk turtle (Sternotherus peltifer) and the razorback musk turtle (Sternotherus carinatus) with the latter considered one of the top-ten least studied turtle species in the United States and Canada. No studies have examined the population genetics of these highly aquatic species across their geographic ranges, and this is particularly concerning as some states have had to issue moratoriums on commercial harvest of these species to prevent population declines. Harvested turtles are generally destined for overseas markets, as Southeast Asia has decimated its own turtle populations and must look to other areas of high diversity and abundance of turtles to satiate demand. Considering that very little is still known about these species, it is important to have baseline data on the population genetics of these species, as well as fill in knowledge gaps on their ecology to help make more informed conservation and management decisions.

Available for download on Thursday, May 14, 2020

Included in

Genetics Commons

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