Predicting connectivity of green turtles at Palmyra Atoll, central Pacific: A focus on mtDNA and dispersal modelling

Eugenia Naro-Maciel, Stephen J. Gaughran, Nathan F. Putman, George Amato, Felicity Arengo, Peter H. Dutton, Katherine W. McFadden, Erin C. Vintinner, Eleanor J. Sterling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Population connectivity and spatial distribution are fundamentally related to ecology, evolution and behaviour. Here, we combined powerful genetic analysis with simulations of particle dispersal in a high-resolution ocean circulation model to investigate the distribution of green turtles foraging at the remote Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, central Pacific. We analysed mitochondrial sequences from turtles (n = 349) collected there over 5 years (2008-2012). Genetic analysis assigned natal origins almost exclusively (approx. 97%) to the West Central and South Central Pacific combined Regional Management Units. Further, our modelling results indicated that turtles could potentially drift from rookeries to Palmyra Atoll via surface currents along a near-Equatorial swathe traversing the Pacific. Comparing findings from genetics and modelling highlighted the complex impacts of ocean currents and behaviour on natal origins. Although the Palmyra feeding groundwas highly differentiated genetically from others in the Indo-Pacific, there was no significant differentiation among years, sexes or stage-classes at the Refuge. Understanding the distribution of this foraging population advances knowledge of green turtles and contributes to effective conservation planning for this threatened species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130888
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number93
StatePublished - Apr 6 2014


  • Chelonia mydas
  • Control region
  • Feeding ground
  • Marine turtle
  • Mixed stock analysis
  • Ocean currents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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