Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) Population Genetics In the Southeastern United States

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


With populations declining across their geographic range, the spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) is currently a species of conservation concern. Though broadly distributed, the species is particularly enigmatic at its southern periphery, and many aspects of its ecology and population biology in this portion of the range have either just recently been described or are currently unknown. One of the current knowledge gaps is a robust assessment of the population genetics of the southern populations. We collected tissue samples from 204 spotted turtles from 5 sites across South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and used 11 microsatellite loci to investigate the genetic diversity and population structure in these populations. We found that southern populations exhibited low, but significant, population differentiation (mean FST = 0.062) and each site clustered as its own genetic group. Genetic diversity across sites was comparable to estimates reported for northern populations. Net effective population sizes were generally robust and no populations showed indication of recent bottlenecks. Our results suggest that populations inhabiting relatively intact environments do not appear to face immediate threats from past loss of genetic diversity. However, continued monitoring, both demographic and genetic, of this long-lived species is an important management goal to insure that continued global changes do not threaten population viability.

Publication Title

Chelonian Conservation and Biology

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