Effects of road proximity on genetic diversity and reproductive success of the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Roads have a severe impact on wildlife. Reptiles are particularly susceptible due to their attraction to roads and their low car-avoidance capacity. For example, a high number of road killed freshwater turtles resulted from females selecting the unpaved side of roads as nesting sites. However, roads are harmful not only for adults, but are also expected to affect egg survival and recruitment. In this work, we indirectly determined whether the proximity to roads affects the reproductive success of freshwater turtles. The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) was chosen for its population density, which is higher than most turtle species considered endangered. Locations near roads (<100 m) and in natural areas (>500 m) were sampled in three geographically distant ecoregions. We estimated the diversity of microsatellite loci from nuclear and mitochondrial genomes to assess the size of the kin groups as a proxy of the reproductive success of females. Similar diversity at nuclear markers suggested a comparable historical and demographic background among populations. However, lower mitochondrial diversity, higher mean and variance in the size of kin groups as well as a lower number of kin groups were strongly associated with the proximity to roads. Results indicated that a lower proportion of females participated in the recruitment of populations close to the roads than in natural areas, resulting in fewer but larger families near roads. We expect similar results for species nesting on the roadside. Barriers or fences that prevent individuals from reaching the road may help reduce their impacts on these populations.