Global phylogeography of the ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys spp.) as inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences
- Cite this article as:
- Bowen, B., Clark, A., Abreu-Grobois, F. et al. Genetica (1997) 101: 179. doi:10.1023/A:1018382415005
The Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempi) is restricted to the warm temperate zone of the North Atlantic Ocean, whereas the olive ridley turtle (L. olivacea) is globally distributed in warm-temperate and tropical seas, including nesting colonies in the North Atlantic that nearly overlap the range of L. kempi. To explain this lopsided distribution, Pritchard (1969) proposed a scenario in which an ancestral taxon was divided into Atlantic and Pacific forms (L. kempi and L. olivacea, respectively) by the Central American land bridge. According to this model, the olive ridley subsequently occupied the Pacific and Indian Oceans and recently colonized the Atlantic Ocean via southern Africa. To assess this biogeographic model, a 470 bp sequence of the mtDNA control region was compared among 89 ridley turtles, including the sole L. kempi nesting population and 7 nesting locations across the range of L. olivacea. These data confirm a fundamental partition between L. olivacea and L. kempi (p=0.052-0.069), shallow separations within L. olivacea (p=0.002-0.031), and strong geographic partitioning of mtDNA lineages. The most divergent L. olivacea haplotype is observed in the Indo-West Pacific region, as are the central haplotypes in a parsimony network, implicating this region as the source of the most recent radiation of olive ridley lineages. The most common olive ridley haplotype in Atlantic samples is distinguished from an Indo-West Pacific haplotype by a single nucleotide substitution, and East Pacific samples are distingushed from the same haplotype by two nucleotide substitutions. These shallow separations are consistent with the recent invasion of the Atlantic postulated by Pritchard (1969), and indicate that the East Pacific nesting colonies were also recently colonized from the Indo-West Pacific region. Molecular clock estimates place these invasions within the last 300,000 years.