Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

United States Gulf of Mexico waters provide important nursery habitat for Mexico’s green turtle nesting populations

February 3, 2023

Resolving natal populations for juvenile green turtles is challenging given their potential for extensive dispersal during the oceanic stage and ontogenetic shifts among nursery habitats. Mitochondrial DNA markers have elucidated patterns of connectivity between green turtle nesting populations (rookeries) and juvenile foraging aggregations. However, missing rookery baseline data and haplotype sharing among populations have often impeded inferences, including estimating origins of Gulf of Mexico juveniles. Here, we assessed genetic structure among seven foraging aggregations spanning southern Texas (TX) to southwestern Florida (SWFL), including Port Fourchon, Louisiana (LA); a surface-pelagic aggregation (SP) offshore of Louisiana and Florida; Santa Rosa Island, Florida (SRI); St. Joseph Bay, Florida (SJB); and the Big Bend region, Florida (BB). We estimated source contributions to aggregations with novel genetic data (excluding SP and BB) using a Bayesian many-to-one mixed stock analysis (MSA) approach. Haplotype frequencies for western (TX, LA, SP, SRI) and eastern (SJB, BB, SWFL) aggregations were significantly differentiated. The largest shift in haplotype frequencies between proximal nursery sites occurred between SRI and SJB, separated by only 150 km, highlighting the lack of a geographic yardstick for predicting genetic structure. In contrast to previous MSA results, there was no signal of Florida juveniles at any foraging site. Mexican contributions dominated in all aggregations, with strong connectivity between western Bay of Campeche (Tamaulipas/Veracruz) rookeries and western foraging aggregations. MSA indicated more diverse Mexican origins for eastern aggregations, with larger inputs from the eastern Bay of Campeche (Campeche/Yucatán), Campeche Bank, and Quintana Roo rookeries. These results demonstrate the significance of the Gulf of Mexico coast and offshore waters of the United States as important nursery habitat for green turtles of Mexican origin and highlight the need for international coordination for management of these populations.

Publication Year 2023
Title United States Gulf of Mexico waters provide important nursery habitat for Mexico’s green turtle nesting populations
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2022.1035834
Authors Brian M. Shamblin, Kristen Hart, Margaret Lamont, Donna J. Shaver, Peter H. Dutton, Erin L. LaCasella, Campbell J. Nairn
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Marine Science
Index ID 70240271
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center