A population genetic analysis of the Critically Endangered Madagascar big-headed turtle, Erymnochelys madagascariensis across captive and wild populations

Nina F.D. White, Holly Mennell, Georgia Power, Dominic Edwards, Luke Chrimes, Lance Woolaver, Juliette Velosoa, Randriamahita, Richard Mozavelo, Tsilavo Hasina Rafeliarisoa, Gerald Kuchling, Javier Lopez, Ernest Bekarany, Namotoa Charles, Richard Young, Richard Lewis, Michael W. Bruford, Pablo Orozco-terWengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Erymnochelys madagascariensis is a Critically Endangered turtle endemic to Madagascar. Anthropogenic activity has depleted the wild population by 70% in the last century, and effective conservation management is essential to ensuring its persistence. Captive breeding was implemented to augment depleted populations in the southern part of Ankarafantsika National Park (ANP), when no genetic data were available for E. madagascariensis. It is unknown how much of the natural population’s diversity is encapsulated in captivity. We used eight microsatellite loci and fragments of two mitochondrial genes to identify the genetic structure of E. madagascariensis in the wild. Captive bred turtles were compared with wild populations in order to assess the representativeness of this ex situ conservation strategy for ANP. Six microsatellite clusters, ten cytochrome b, and nine COI haplotypes were identified across wild populations, with high genetic divergence found between populations in two groups of watersheds. Captive bred individuals represent three out of six sampled microsatellite clusters found in the wild and just one mitochondrial haplotype, possibly due to genetic drift. To improve genetic representation, the strategy of frequent interchange between captive and wild breeders within ANP should be revitalised and, as originally planned, hatchlings or juveniles should not be released beyond ANP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8740
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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