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Geographic Structure of Mitochondrial and Nuclear Gene Polymorphisms in Australian Green Turtle Populations and Male-Biased Gene Flow

The Genetics Society of America
Publication Date
  • Investigations
  • Ecology


The genetic structure of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) rookeries located around the Australian coast was assessed by (1) comparing the structure found within and among geographic regions, (2) comparing microsatellite loci vs. restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses of anonymous single copy nuclear DNA (ascnDNA) loci, and (3) comparing the structure found at nuclear DNA markers to that of previously analyzed mitochondrial (mtDNA) control region sequences. Significant genetic structure was observed over all regions at both sets of nuclear markers, though the microsatellite data provided greater resolution in identifying significant genetic differences in pairwise tests between regions. Inferences about population structure and migration rates from the microsatellite data varied depending on whether statistics were based on the stepwise mutation or infinite allele model, with the latter being more congruent with geography. Estimated rates of gene flow were generally higher than expected for nuclear DNA (nDNA) in comparison to mtDNA, and this difference was most pronounced in comparisons between the northern and southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The genetic data combined with results from physical tagging studies indicate that the lack of nuclear gene divergence through the GBR is likely due to the migration of sGBR turtles through the courtship area of the nGBR population, rather than male-biased dispersal. This example highlights the value of combining comparative studies of molecular variation with ecological data to infer population processes.

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