Marine Biology

, 165:68 | Cite as

A comprehensive mitochondrial DNA mixed-stock analysis clarifies the composition of loggerhead turtle aggregates in the Adriatic Sea

  • Livia Tolve
  • Paolo Casale
  • Angela Formia
  • Luisa Garofalo
  • Bojan Lazar
  • Chiara Natali
  • Andrea Novelletto
  • Carola Vallini
  • Elena Bužan
  • Guido Chelazzi
  • Stefania Gaspari
  • Caterina Fortuna
  • Ivna Kocijan
  • Erica Marchiori
  • Nicola Novarini
  • Lisa Poppi
  • Pasquale Salvemini
  • Claudio Ciofi
Original paper


Migration is one of several marine vertebrate traits increasingly affected by human encroachment. The Adriatic Sea is an important foraging and wintering site for loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), and one of the Mediterranean regions where they are most heavily impacted, particularly by fisheries bycatch. Conservation measures concern foraging and wintering areas and nesting grounds, and must, therefore, be informed by the natal origin of individuals in these mixed aggregates. Genetic diversity was investigated among 488 loggerheads found stranded or incidentally captured in fishing gear across the Adriatic and the origin of individuals was assessed through mixed-stock analysis based on comparison of 755 bp of mitochondrial DNA control region sequence. In addition, we highlight the importance of the Gulf of Manfredonia (Apulia, Italy), and of the northeastern Adriatic—a previously genetically undescribed foraging ground. No significant genetic divergence was recorded among sampling areas, between turtles sampled in cold and warm months or between adults and juveniles. The distribution of turtles across the Adriatic Sea appeared not to depend on individual origin. Rookeries in western Greece and Crete provided the most important contributions to the Adriatic mixed stock. In particular, the Greek populations were the most abundant locally in the Gulf of Manfredonia, so they are likely to experience an even greater impact than previously thought because of the severe fishery bycatch levels in this area. This study also provides an example of how substantial increases in sample sizes permit a relatively comprehensive testing of genetic structure across groupings in foraging aggregations.



This study was funded by the University of Florence, the Italian Department of Fishery and Aquaculture (BYCATCH Project—Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry), the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, the European Union NETCET project (IPA Inter-Adriatic), and the Slovenian Research Agency under Grant P1-0386. We thank Fondazione Cetacea ONLUS, the Veneto stranding network (Coordinamento Tartarughe marine del Litorale Veneto), WWF (Area Marina Protetta di Miramare, Trieste), and F. Zuppa and M. Tempesta from APS DelTa for support and for providing samples from the northwestern Adriatic. We are also grateful to V. Angelini, E. Filidei jr, L. Mizzan, G. Palmisano, P. Perlasca, S. Pari, and E. Zanetti for their help with sample collection and to P. Blasi and L. Testa for the assistance during lab work. All collaborating fishermen are particularly acknowledged.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care of animals were followed. This work was conducted under all necessary permits. Live bycaught sea turtles were released after sample collection according to the IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group guidelines (Eckert et al. 1999). None of the procedures used in the study met the criteria which would define them as “experiments” according to article 2 of the Council of European Communities Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. Approval by the institutional ethics committee (Commissione per l’Etica della Ricerca di Ateneo, University of Florence) was not required.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3325_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (790 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 790 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Livia Tolve
    • 1
  • Paolo Casale
    • 2
  • Angela Formia
    • 1
    • 3
  • Luisa Garofalo
    • 4
  • Bojan Lazar
    • 5
    • 6
  • Chiara Natali
    • 1
  • Andrea Novelletto
    • 7
  • Carola Vallini
    • 8
  • Elena Bužan
    • 5
  • Guido Chelazzi
    • 1
  • Stefania Gaspari
    • 9
  • Caterina Fortuna
    • 10
  • Ivna Kocijan
    • 11
    • 12
  • Erica Marchiori
    • 13
  • Nicola Novarini
    • 14
  • Lisa Poppi
    • 13
  • Pasquale Salvemini
    • 15
  • Claudio Ciofi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of FlorenceSesto FiorentinoItaly
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  3. 3.Global Conservation ProgramWildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA
  4. 4.Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Regioni Lazio e ToscanaCentro di Referenza Nazionale per la Medicina Forense VeterinariaRietiItaly
  5. 5.Department of Biodiversity, Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information TechnologiesUniversity of PrimorskaKoperSlovenia
  6. 6.Marine Sciences ProgramJuraj Dobrila University of PulaPulaCroatia
  7. 7.Department of BiologyUniversity of Rome “Tor Vergata”RomeItaly
  8. 8.A.R.C.H.È. OnlusFerraraItaly
  9. 9.Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMAR)National Research Council (CNR)AnconaItaly
  10. 10.Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA)RomeItaly
  11. 11.Department of Anatomy and PhysiologyUniversity of Applied Health SciencesZagrebCroatia
  12. 12.Department of BiologyUniversity of Applied Health SciencesZagrebCroatia
  13. 13.Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food ScienceUniversity of PaduaLegnaroItaly
  14. 14.Museum of Natural History of VeniceVeniceItaly
  15. 15.Panda Molfetta OnlusMolfettaItaly

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