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Population Genetics

The Issue: If we want to grow and sustain the population of sea turtles it is important to understand the genetic factors influencing turtle numbers. The DNA of turtles is passed through the females and so using genetics we can establish the provenance of a turtle’s mother. Genetics research can help to investigate population mixing and identify where the sea turtles that we encounter here are originally coming from. Furthermore we can study distinct population segments, in order to determine which segments of the turtle population are decreasing and which are thriving. This can give us the necessary understanding of the conditions needed in order to sustain the species.

What We Do: Our work in population genetics is done through tracing the DNA of turtles. We do this by taking skin samples from the turtles’ rear flipper. This sample is then sent to Beijing University to be processed and evaluated. Using the information that is uncovered we can compare the genetic material taken from sea turtles at our centres with that of other sea turtle populations around the world. We aim to create a database that can be used for global comparison. This is vital in order to increase our knowledge of the species: how they vary and how they have migrated. We can use this information to find out where a turtle originally comes from.

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