Integrating morphological and genetic data at different spatial scales in a cosmopolitan marine turtle species: Challenges for management and conservation

Rocío Álvarez-Varas, Maike Heidemeyer, Cynthia Riginos, Hugo A. Benítez, Eduardo Reséndiz, Mónica Lara-Uc, Daniel A. Godoy, Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, Daniela E. Alarcón-Ruales, Gabriela M. Vélez-Rubio, Alejandro Fallabrino, Susanna Piovano, Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto, Clara Ortiz-Alvarez, Jeffrey C. Mangel, Damien Esquerré, Patricia Zárate, Carol Medrano, Fabiola León Miranda, Felipe GuerreroJuliana A. Vianna, David Véliz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Patterns of genetic structure in highly mobile marine vertebrates may be accompanied by phenotypic variation. Most studies in marine turtles focused on population genetic structure have been performed at rookeries. We studied whether genetic and morphological variation of the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is consistent geographically, focusing on foraging grounds. An association between population genetic structure and body shape variation at broad (inter-lineage) and fine (foraging grounds) scales was predicted and analysed using mitochondrial DNA and geometric morphometrics. Although genetic and phenotypic differentiation patterns were congruent between lineages, no fine-scale association was found, suggesting adaptive divergence. Connectivity among Pacific foraging grounds found here suggests that temperatures of ocean surface currents may influence the genetic structure of C. mydas on a broad scale. Our results suggest that vicariance, dispersal, life-history traits and ecological conditions operating in foraging grounds have shaped the intraspecific morphology and genetic diversity of this species. Considering a range of geographic and temporal scales is useful when management strategies are required for cosmopolitan species. Integrating morphological and genetic tools at different spatial scales, conservation management is proposed based on protection of neutral and adaptive diversity. This approach opens new questions and challenges, especially regarding conservation genetics in cosmopolitan species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-453
Number of pages20
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • conservation genetics
  • evolutionary potential
  • foraging grounds
  • geometric morphometrics
  • morphotypes
  • natal homing behaviour
  • natural selection
  • phenotypic variation


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