Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 3, pp 495–507 | Cite as

Genetic structure of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) peripheral populations nesting in the northwestern Pacific rookeries: evidence for northern refugia and postglacial colonization

  • Tomoko HamabataEmail author
  • Naoki Kamezaki
  • Tsutomu Hikida
Original Paper


Several green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting populations have been reported in the northwestern Pacific region, the northernmost limit of its distribution range. However, the population history in this region as a whole is not well understood. To clarify how the green turtle nesting populations have evolved in the northwestern Pacific region, the genetic composition of mitochondrial DNA control region sequences in the northwestern Pacific was compared with that of the other Pacific populations. We analyzed 302 samples from the northwestern Pacific rookeries, including 78 newly collected samples from rookeries in the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan (from 24.27°N, 123.76°E to 28.45°N, 129.61°E). Our results revealed that the northwestern Pacific populations consisted of one highly endemic lineage (Clade IV) in the northwestern Pacific rookeries and two other lineages (Clades I and V) which were widely observed in other Pacific populations. We concluded that the highly endemic lineage indicated that a refugial population existed in this region during the Last Glacial Maximum, and the other two lineages indicated that colonization from populations at lower latitudes occurred during interglacial periods. The green turtle nesting populations in the present periphery of their distribution range had been thought to have their origin in colonization from lower latitudes, which served as refugia during glacial periods. However, the present results indicated that the northwestern Pacific peripheral populations have been maintained on the evolutionary timescale of this species and should be treated as long-term conservation resources.


Green Turtle Refugial Population Sunda Shelf Pacific Population Nest Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the following people for extensive support of our field work and contributions to sample collection: Y. Yamashita, H. Kuroda, and other members of the Okinoerabu Sea Turtle Network, K. Oki and K. Mizuno (Amami Marine Life Research Association), M. Tanaka (Division of Environment, Yoron Town), T. Arata (Doren Campsite), T. Ishihara and K. Kameda (Sea Turtle Association of Japan), and I. Kawazu (Okinawa Churashima Foundation). We also thank Mr. and Mrs. Sai for kindly lending us their house during the field research in Amami Oshima Island. We also thank J. Okuyama and T. Okamoto for helpful suggestions to improve earlier drafts of the manuscript and E. Nakajima for English correction and helpful suggestions. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for constructive suggestions which helped us improve the manuscript. Samplings of this study were conducted under permits for field research from Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures. The authors wish to acknowledge use of the Maptool program of SEATURTLE.ORG for maps in this paper. This research was financially supported in part by grants for Global COE Program A06 to Kyoto University and for Excellent Graduate Schools, MEXT, Japan, and from the Okinawa Churashima Foundation.

Supplementary material

227_2013_2352_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (60 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 59 kb)
227_2013_2352_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (111 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 111 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomoko Hamabata
    • 1
    Email author
  • Naoki Kamezaki
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Tsutomu Hikida
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences, Department of Zoology, Graduate School of ScienceKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Sea Turtle Association of JapanOsakaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Ecosystem Studies, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  4. 4.Suma Aqualife Park KobeKobeJapan

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