Using maternal DNA to evaluate egg translocation success of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR)
The federally threatened loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests on Assateague Island, a barrier island at the Eastern Shore of Virginia. From 1969 to 1979, eggs from nests laid on Cape Island of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Charleston County, SC were translocated to CNWR. The main goal was to extend the U.S. Atlantic loggerhead breeding range by egg translocation to protected beaches physically and ecologically similar with the well-established nesting populations. Loggerheads take about 30 years to reach maturity; therefore, females that were part of the transplant project may now be returning to their hatch and release sites. We collected an egg sample and GPS points from each nest found to compare location and nesting frequency of the individuals. Our management objectives are based on reviewing the past to predict the future. Presently, we are comparing nest success versus the nesting frequency of loggerheads over time. Maternal nuclear microsatellite DNA can be isolated from unincubated eggshells of loggerheads. Genotypes derived from these eggshells allow an individual assignment of nests and demographic parameter estimates for loggerhead turtle nesting populations.