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Genetica. 2004 Jun;121(2):195-206.

Conservation genetics of the east Pacific green turtle (Chelonia mydas) in Michoacan, Mexico.

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Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, UNAM, Antigua carretera a Patzuaro 8071, Colonia Ex Hacienda de San Jose de la Huerta, CP 58190, Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.


The main continental nesting rookeries of the east Pacific green turtle (EPGT), Chelonia mydas, on the Michoacan (Mexico) coast suffered drastic population declines following intense exploitation in the 1960s--1970s with annual abundance of nesting females plummeting from about 25,000 to an average of about 1400 between 1982 and 2001. Analyses of data from three nDNA microsatellite loci and 400 bp mtDNA control region sequences from a total of 123 nesting females sampled from four Michoacan rookeries found no evidence of population sub-structuring. The recent order of magnitude reduction in the population size shows no apparent impact on genetic diversity in either control region sequences (overall h = 0.48; pi = 0.0036) or microsatellite loci (overall Na = 20.8; Hexp = 0.895). Our estimates of annual effective female population size (Nef; from theta = 2Nemicron) of 1.9-2.3 x 10(3), in spite of being an order of magnitude below historical records, appear to be sufficient to allow recovery of this population without significant loss of genetic diversity. These findings highlight the importance of continued conservation to reverse the decline of this population before it becomes vulnerable to genetic erosion.

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