UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Persistence of distinctive morphotypes in the native range of the CITES-listed Aldabra giant tortoise


Turnbull, Lindsay A; Ozgul, Arpat; Accouche, Wilna; Baxter, Rich; ChongSeng, Lindsay; Currie, Jock C; Doak, Naomi; Hansen, Dennis M; Pistorius, Pierre; Richards, Heather; van de Crommenacker, Janske; von Brandis, Rainer; Fleischer-Dogley, Frauke; Bunbury, Nancy (2015). Persistence of distinctive morphotypes in the native range of the CITES-listed Aldabra giant tortoise. Ecology and Evolution, 5(23):5499-5508.

Abstract

Understanding the extent of morphological variation in the wild population of Aldabra giant tortoises is important for conservation, as morphological variation in captive populations has been interpreted as evidence for lingering genes from extinct tortoise lineages. If true, this could impact reintroduction programmes in the region. The population of giant tortoises on Aldabra Atoll is subdivided and distributed around several islands. Although pronounced morphological variation was recorded in the late 1960s, it was thought to be a temporary phenomenon. Early researchers also raised concerns over the future of the population, which was perceived to have exceeded its carrying capacity. We analyzed monthly monitoring data from 12 transects spanning a recent 15-year period (1998–2012) during which animals from four subpopulations were counted, measured, and sexed. In addition, we analyzed survival data from individuals first tagged during the early 1970s. The population is stable with no sign of significant decline. Subpopulations differ in density, but these differences are mostly due to differences in the prevailing vegetation type. However, subpopulations differ greatly in both the size of animals and the degree of sexual dimorphism. Comparisons with historical data reveal that phenotypic differences among the subpopulations of tortoises on Aldabra have been apparent for the last 50 years with no sign of diminishing. We conclude that the giant tortoise population on Aldabra is subject to varying ecological selection pressures, giving rise to stable morphotypes in discrete subpopulations. We suggest therefore that (1) the presence of morphological differences among captive Aldabra tortoises does not alone provide convincing evidence of genes from other extinct species; and (2) Aldabra serves as an important example of how conservation and management in situ can add to the scientific value of populations and perhaps enable them to better adapt to future ecological pressures.

Abstract

Understanding the extent of morphological variation in the wild population of Aldabra giant tortoises is important for conservation, as morphological variation in captive populations has been interpreted as evidence for lingering genes from extinct tortoise lineages. If true, this could impact reintroduction programmes in the region. The population of giant tortoises on Aldabra Atoll is subdivided and distributed around several islands. Although pronounced morphological variation was recorded in the late 1960s, it was thought to be a temporary phenomenon. Early researchers also raised concerns over the future of the population, which was perceived to have exceeded its carrying capacity. We analyzed monthly monitoring data from 12 transects spanning a recent 15-year period (1998–2012) during which animals from four subpopulations were counted, measured, and sexed. In addition, we analyzed survival data from individuals first tagged during the early 1970s. The population is stable with no sign of significant decline. Subpopulations differ in density, but these differences are mostly due to differences in the prevailing vegetation type. However, subpopulations differ greatly in both the size of animals and the degree of sexual dimorphism. Comparisons with historical data reveal that phenotypic differences among the subpopulations of tortoises on Aldabra have been apparent for the last 50 years with no sign of diminishing. We conclude that the giant tortoise population on Aldabra is subject to varying ecological selection pressures, giving rise to stable morphotypes in discrete subpopulations. We suggest therefore that (1) the presence of morphological differences among captive Aldabra tortoises does not alone provide convincing evidence of genes from other extinct species; and (2) Aldabra serves as an important example of how conservation and management in situ can add to the scientific value of populations and perhaps enable them to better adapt to future ecological pressures.

Altmetrics

Downloads

26 downloads since deposited on 05 Jan 2016
26 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:7 November 2015
Deposited On:05 Jan 2016 13:15
Last Modified:05 Sep 2016 08:49
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2045-7758
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1764
PubMed ID:27069601

Download

[img]
Preview
Content: Accepted Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 676kB
View at publisher
[img]
Preview
Content: Published Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 1MB
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

TrendTerms

TrendTerms displays relevant terms of the abstract of this publication and related documents on a map. The terms and their relations were extracted from ZORA using word statistics. Their timelines are taken from ZORA as well. The bubble size of a term is proportional to the number of documents where the term occurs. Red, orange, yellow and green colors are used for terms that occur in the current document; red indicates high interlinkedness of a term with other terms, orange, yellow and green decreasing interlinkedness. Blue is used for terms that have a relation with the terms in this document, but occur in other documents.
You can navigate and zoom the map. Mouse-hovering a term displays its timeline, clicking it yields the associated documents.

Author Collaborations