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J Hered. 2006 Jul-Aug;97(4):346-54. Epub 2006 Jun 16.

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) foraging and nesting aggregations in the Caribbean and Atlantic: impact of currents and behavior on dispersal.

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  • 1Department of Biology SCA 110, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620-5150, USA. abass@mail.usf.edu

Abstract

Although significant amounts of research have been dedicated to increasing the knowledge of the life history of green turtles (Chelonia mydas), large gaps exist in our understanding of juvenile migratory behavior. These gaps can be filled by genetic studies of foraging ground aggregations. Using mitochondrial DNA markers and Bayesian analyses, samples (n = 106) from a foraging aggregation in North Carolina indicated that animals from the east coast of the United States (54%) and Mexico (27%) dominate the composition with the remainder coming from other Caribbean and Atlantic nesting aggregations. These findings prompted a reanalysis of 4 regional foraging aggregations using Bayesian mixed stock analysis, analysis of molecular variance, and diversity measures. Significant regional population structure between northern and southern foraging aggregations in the Caribbean was detected (phiST = 0.27, P = 0.000) in addition to significant nesting aggregation structure (phiST = 0.87, P = 0.000). Haplotype diversity levels were highest at foraging aggregations located within the confluence of major current systems. These findings indicate that both currents and behavior have strong influences on the composition of foraging aggregations. In addition, our results provide evidence of juvenile homing to regional foraging grounds and highlight the difficulties of separating historical and current effects on recruitment patterns at foraging locations.

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