Project Report

With more than 100 species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, Asian turtles are among the most threatened animals in the world. Due to massive demand from the Food/Chinese traditional medicine/market and large scale habitat destruction throughout the region, many Asian turtles will become extinct in the near future if appropriate conservation actions were not taken. Currently, conservation of Asian turtles is hindered by the lack of understanding in their natural history and basic ecology. I conducted a study to access the population genetic variability and determine the degree of hybridization of a species of endangered turtle, the Chinese Pond Turtle (Mauremys reevesii), in Kinmen, a small island off the coast of Fujian Provence, China, but under the military control of Taiwan. The genetic variability of an animal population is informative for conservation planning as it allows wildlife managers to make sound, science-based management actions. Populations that are small in size and low in genetic variability are more likely to go extinct. Hybridization has been documented in many turtle species, but rarely has it been observed under natural setting between two species that utilize the same habitat. Understanding the degree and prevalence of hybridization allow biologists to infer historical population patterns and predict future population trend. Preliminary result showed that population genetic variability is strongly correlated with population size, as one would expect, and hybridization rate appears to be higher in populations that are closer to sources of human disturbance. A proportion of hybrids found in one particular location is alarming as it might indicate genetic swamping, an undesirable condition for an endangered species. Data analysis of this project is ongoing under the supervision of my Taiwanese collaborators, and I plan on expanding the scope of the study by including samples collected thorough out the species’ geographic range.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Lau Anthony
United States
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