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Conservation genomics of the endangered Burmese roofed turtle

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The Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is one of the world's most endangered turtles. Only one wild population remains in Myanmar. There are thought to be 12 breeding turtles in the wild. Conservation efforts for the species have raised >700 captive turtles since 2002, predominantly from eggs collected in the wild. We collected tissue samples from 445 individuals (approximately 40% of the turtles’ remaining global population), applied double‐digest restriction‐site associated DNA sequencing (ddRAD‐Seq), and obtained approximately 1500 unlinked genome‐wide single nucleotide polymorphisms. Individuals fell into 5 distinct genetic clusters, 4 of which represented full‐sib families. We inferred a low effective population size (≤10 individuals) but did not detect signs of severe inbreeding, possibly because the population bottleneck occurred recently. Two groups of 30 individuals from the captive pool that were the most genetically diverse were reintroduced to the wild, leading to an increase in the number of fertile eggs (n = 27) in the wild. Another 25 individuals, selected based on the same criteria, were transferred to the Singapore Zoo as an assurance colony. Our study demonstrates that the research‐to‐application gap in conservation can be bridged through application of cutting‐edge genomic methods.
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Keywords: Batagur trivittata; Birmania; Burma; Myanmar; conservation genomics; ddRAD‐Seq; genética de la conservación

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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