Genome-wide data reveals strong impact of Pleistocene climate fluctuations on the demographic history of a tropical marine vertebrate

  • Jurjan van der Zee (Speaker)
  • Marjolijn Christianen (Contributor)
  • Mabel Nava (Contributor)
  • Tadzio Bervoets (Contributor)
  • Sietske van der Wal (Contributor)
  • Jessica Berkel (Contributor)
  • Bérubé, M. (Contributor)
  • Leontine E Becking (Contributor)
  • Palsboll, P. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Climate fluctuations associated with the glacial cycles of the Pleistocene have been important drivers of population expansions and declines in temperate species. However, less is known about tropical species, in particular in the marine environment. The present study reconstructed the demographic history of the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), a critically endangered tropical marine vertebrate and keystone species in coral reef ecosystems, using genome-wide data. Assuming a mutation rate of 1.2 x 10-8 per site per generation and a generation time of 24 years, trajectories of effective population size (Ne) through time were constructed using the site-frequency spectrum estimated from genome-wide markers (triRADs). Our results show hawksbill turtles rapidly expanded during marine isotopic stage 11 (~400,000 years ago), which is considered the longest and warmest interglacial during the last 500,000 years, declined during the last glacial period (~110,000 to 10,000 years ago) and expanded again during the Holocene (~10,000 years ago to present). These findings demonstrate a strong impact of glacial cycles on the demographic history of hawksbill turtles, possibly through large-scale changes in the amount of coral reef habitat throughout the Pleistocene.
Event titleNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2019
Event typeConference
Conference number12
Organiser Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN)
LocationLunteren, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational