Hilary R. Frandsen, Diego F. Figueroa, and Jeff A. George
The Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) is the world's most endangered sea turtle species and is primarily distributed in the Gulf of Mexico. In the United States, South Padre Island, Texas serves as a key nesting ground for the species. Genetic studies of the Kemp's ridley have been used to aid in conservation and management practices, with the mitochondrial control region as the most commonly used marker due to its perceived hypervariability and ease of sequencing. However, with the advent of next generation sequencing technology, targeting complete mitochondrial genomes is now feasible. Here, we describe a more complete mitochondrial genome for the Kemp's ridley than has been previously published in literature and demonstrate a cost-effective and efficient method for obtaining complete mitochondrial genomes from sea turtles. We compare the genetic diversity and taxonomic resolution obtained from whole mitochondrial genomes to that obtained from the mitochondrial control region alone. We compare current genetic diversity with previous records. Furthermore, we evaluate the genetic structure between the breeding stock in South Padre Island and that of deceased Kemp's ridleys recovered on the Northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and of Kemp's ridleys stranded on the East Coast of the United States. Our results show that complete mitochondrial genomes provide greater resolution than the control region alone. They also show that the genetic diversity of the Kemp's ridley has remained stable, despite large population declines, and that the genetic makeup of deceased turtles stranded after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is indistinguishable from the breeding stock in South Padre Island, Texas.
Hilary R. Frandsen
In 2010, researchers observed an abrupt decline in nesting numbers of the Kemp’s ridley following 35 years of positive growth. In wake of this halt, and subsequent lowered nesting averages, evaluation of the genetic diversity of remaining individuals is relevant to investigate the plausibility of a genetic bottleneck, and determine the reproductive stability of the Kemp’s ridley.
Here, I evaluate the genetic diversity within a sampling of the Kemp’s ridleys on South Padre Island using two methods: targeting the mitochondrial control region and targeting the complete mitochondrial genome. Opportunistic samples were donated from juvenile ridleys on the East coast, and from adult ridleys along the northern Gulf of Mexico. Here, I present the first complete Kemp’s ridley mitochondrial genome and discuss the geographic distribution of haplotypes present within the current population. Finally, I compare the depth of analysis achieved via targeting the full genome or by the control region sequence.
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