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Diamondback Terrapin Genetic Assessment

Terrapin sitting in shallow water in sandy area

Florida is home to 5 of 7 diamondback terrapin (DBT) subspecies, 3 of which are endemic. A status assessment is underway to evaluate extinction risk for the DBT in Florida at the species and subspecies levels. To inform this assessment, FWC has partnered with UCLA to assess genetic differentiation among currently recognized subspecies to test their validity since recent studies fail to support the current taxonomy. This is important because subspecies, as smaller groupings below the species level, are more extinction prone and may warrant higher levels of conservation priority. This study will also provide estimates of effective population sizes and genetic isolation to further inform conservation prioritization. 

With the help of many collaboration partners, over 1,000 genetic samples have been collected from across the species range. Whole genome resequencing is being used on a subset of these samples to assess genetic differentiation among DBT populations and identify genetically distinct groups. These groups will be compared with recognized subspecies to update the current classification as warranted. Additionally, we have 992 genetic samples from Florida that UCLA will use RADseq on to estimate population-genetic parameters for populations to assess extinction risk and provide baseline estimates of effective population sizes for long-term monitoring. Together, these methods comprise the most exhaustive molecular genomic approach currently available to accomplish the goals of this research.

This project started in July 2020. Stay tuned to learn what we find!