Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 593–603 | Cite as

Regional differentiation among populations of the Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

  • Kristen M. Hart
  • Margaret E. Hunter
  • Tim L. King
Research Article


The Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a brackish-water turtle species whose populations have been fragmented due to anthropogenic activity such as development of coastal habitat and entrapment in commercial blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) fishing gear. Genetic analyses can improve conservation efforts for the long-term protection of the species. We used microsatellite DNA analysis to investigate levels of gene flow among and genetic variability within 21 geographically separate collections of the species distributed from Massachusetts to Texas. Quantified levels of genetic variability (allelic diversity, genotypic frequencies, and heterozygosity) revealed three zones of genetic discontinuity, resulting in four discrete populations: Northeast Atlantic, Coastal Mid-Atlantic, Florida and Texas/Louisiana. The average number of alleles and expected heterozygosity for the four genetic clusters were NA = 6.54 and HE = 0.050, respectively. However, the geographic boundaries of the populations did not correspond to accepted terrapin subspecies limits. Our results illuminate not only the need to sample terrapins in additional sites, specifically in the southeast, but also the necessity for allowing uninterrupted gene flow among population groupings to preserve current levels of genetic diversity.


Diamondback terrapin Malaclemys Population genetics Microsatellite Management 



We thank C. Young, S. Julian, M. Eackles, B. Lubinski, and R. Johnson for assistance in the lab, and A. Sartain with GIS mapping. Many volunteers helped to collect samples for our collection. Funding was provided by the USGS, Biological Resources Division, Status and Trends program, USGS Priority Ecosystem Studies program, and Oak Foundation. All collection efforts in NC followed Duke University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Protocols (Protocols A120-02-01 and A120-05-04), and all research in the Florida Everglades was conducted according to guidelines in permits EVER-2001-SCI-0067 and EVER-2002-SCI-0092. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

10592_2014_563_MOESM1_ESM.doc (183 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 36.7 kb)
10592_2014_563_MOESM2_ESM.doc (106 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 39.8 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristen M. Hart
    • 1
  • Margaret E. Hunter
    • 2
  • Tim L. King
    • 3
  1. 1.Southeast Ecological Science CenterUS Geological SurveyDavieUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Ecological Science CenterUS Geological SurveyGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Leetown Science CenterUS Geological SurveyKearneysvilleUSA

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