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Annual variation in source contributions to a mixed stock: implications for quantifying connectivity

Authors

  • KAREN A. BJORNDAL,

    1. Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Zoology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
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  • ALAN B. BOLTEN

    1. Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Zoology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
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Karen A. Bjorndal, Fax: +1 352 392 9166; E-mail: kab@zoology.ufl.edu

Abstract

Connectivity among populations of highly migratory species is an area of active research and is often quantified with genetic markers. We determined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences in 350 green turtles, Chelonia mydas, in 10 annual samples over a 12-year period from an aggregation of immature green turtles in the southern Bahamas. We found significant temporal structuring in haplotype frequencies among years for all turtles and for recruits. These significant differences were reflected in substantial variation in the relative contributions from different rookeries among years estimated by a Bayesian hierarchical model. Because this foraging aggregation has been the subject of a demographic study for over 30 years, we were able to determine that, among the three potential causes of temporal structuring—differential recruitment, mortality and emigration—recruitment accounts for most of this variation. We found that estimates of connectivity and genetic diversity in sea turtle populations are affected by the level of temporal variation reported here. More studies on the extent of temporal variation in composition of mixed stocks of other migratory species are needed to determine how this affects measures of connectivity.

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