Grant: 05-031R
Project Title: Population Structure of a Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) Nesting Colony in Northwest Florida as Determined Through Mitochondrial DNA Analyses
Project Manager: Dr. Ray Carthy
Organization: University of Florida - Florida Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $7,525.00
Completion Date: 2006-08-18

Summary: The objective of this study is to increase scientific knowledge of the genetic population structure of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in northwest Florida. This research will provide a more robust representation of the mtDNA haplotype ratios characteristic of this subpopulation. Since 1998, a saturation tagging study has conducted nightly tagging surveys of nesting loggerhead turtles on a 3-mile stretch of beach, owned by Eglin Air Force Base, in Cape San Blas, FL. Skin biopsy samples have been collected from individual nesting adults in this region since 2002, yielding a total of 46 tissue samples (n = 20, 16, 10, per year respectively). This is the most extensive tissue sampling effort conducted on the Florida Panhandle. The goal of this study is to provide a more accurate representation of the haplotype frequencies found in this region by sequencing the mtDNA control region of all samples collected through 2005.

Results: Saturation tagging was conducted during the summer of 2005, resulting in 10 tissue samples from nesting loggerheads being added to the data set. DNA from all 50 samples was successfully isolated in November, 2005. Sequencing was completed in May, 2006. Of the samples, 30 were identical to the reference haplotype A1, 5 samples did not sequence, and 5 accounted for 4 new, unique haplotypes. The new haplotypes will be submitted to the DNA sea turtle data for verification. Further analysis will involve comparing and combing these results to past studies from NW Florida. (Authors: Russell Scarpino & Raymond Carthy)