1. Welcome! Are you interested in tortoises? If so, we invite you to join our community! Our community is the #1 place for tortoise keepers to talk online. Once you join you'll be able to post messages, upload pictures of your tortoise and enclosure, and discuss any tortoise topic with other tortoise keepers. Get started today!

New Alligator Snapping Turtle Species Announced, Some Face Localized Risks April 14, 2014

Discussion in 'Tortoise and Turtle Articles' started by Cowboy_Ken, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    16,903
    Likes Received:
    11,872
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

    A new study published in the journal Zootaxa reveals that the alligator snapping turtle is actually three different species – not one as previously thought.

    The report also indicated that the localized distribution of these species, which includes coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico, poses a significant threat to their continued survival.

    “We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” said study author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist, referring to a small river that winds through parts of Georgia and Florida. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”

    Based on analyses of the fossil record and modern turtle morphology, study researchers revised the genus Macrochelys to include Macrochelys temminkii and the two newly-described species, Macrochelys apalachicolae and Macrochelys suwanniensis. Constrained to river systems that empty into the northern Gulf of Mexico, the species are split by geography, which triggered changes in genetics, according to the study team.

    “M. temminkii is found in river drainages such as the Mississippi and Mobile, while M. apalachicolae is confined to the Apalachicola and other Panhandle rivers,” explained study author Kenneth Krysko, a herpetologist with the Florida Museum. “There are no alligator snapping turtles in the seven rivers between the Suwannee and Ochlockonee (Aucilla, Econfina, Fenholloway, Saint Marks, Steinhatchee, Wacissa and Wakulla). This gap creates a geographic isolation that has likely resulted in the Suwannee species being the most genetically and morphologically distinct of the three Macrochelys lineages.”

    Surveys of the Suwannee River during the last three years have indicated M. suwanniensis populations are greater than previously imagined. However, the species’ success continues to be an issue because of its restricted range, according to the researchers.

    To reach their conclusion, the scientists reviewed the fossil record, which reaches back 15 to 16 million years. They discovered morphological and genetic distinctions among the three species. Specific distinctions were noted in the carapace, or shell, which can be readily detected in both living and fossil examples.

    “The western group (M. temminckii) is morphologically more primitive, but genetics testing suggests that the Suwannee snapper has a deeper divergence,” said study author Jason Bourque, a vertebrate paleontologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History. “When alligator snappers show up in the fossil record, they look a lot like modern alligator snappers. They do not start showing up in the fossil record until the early Miocene, but snapping turtles as a group go back to the late Cretaceous.”

    Sometimes referred to as the “dinosaurs of the turtle world,” alligator snapping turtles can grow to 200 pounds and live almost 100 years. As apex predators, these turtles play a crucial role in their ecosystem, Thomas said.

    The researchers said they hoped their work would inform efforts to maintain these turtles and their river ecosystems.
  2. ALDABRAMAN

    ALDABRAMAN KEEPER AT HEART 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    Messages:
    26,556
    Likes Received:
    13,942
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    SW Forida
    (These ads do not appear for registered members.)
    Interesting!
  3. Anthony P

    Anthony P Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    2,164
    Likes Received:
    829
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Swamps, bogs, and vernal pools
    Love it! No wonder I have seen people putting out "WANTED" ads for Snappers from that locale.
  4. diamondbp

    diamondbp Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,266
    Likes Received:
    1,770
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Thanks for posting . Seems like they are splitting up a new group of some turtle species every few years now.
  5. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    16,903
    Likes Received:
    11,872
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    I must give credit where credit is due. These and other similar postings by me are brought to is courtesy of Alan and Anita Salzberg and their fantastic organization, Herpdigest.

    HerpDigest.org Is A 501 © 3 Non-Profit Organization. So Donations Are Of Course Gratefully Accepted.
    ____________________________________________________________
    To subscribe go to www.herpdigest.org.
    Angel Carrion likes this.
  6. Tidgy's Dad

    Tidgy's Dad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2015
    Messages:
    46,285
    Likes Received:
    121,439
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Fes, Morocco
    This case is a good one, and probably taxonomically valid, but it seems that conservationists are constantly trying to separate sub species or varieties into new species in order to upgrade their conservation status, not necessarily a bad thing in terms of protecting species, but a nightmare for taxonomic scientists who have to reduce them all back again every few years.
    Angel Carrion likes this.
  7. turtlesteve

    turtlesteve Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2012
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Interesting.

    While it's great that we have these new genetic analysis tools, it's certainly biased taxonomy in favor of the "splitters".
    In addition to conservation, this may be motivated by the push to "publish or perish" in academic circles. The perceived value of such genetic analysis, is that it can differentiate species when other methods can't. If the authors did all this work and found inconclusive results, it would make for a lower impact, and comparatively disappointing paper.

    Steve
    Tidgy's Dad likes this.
Similar Threads: Alligator Snapping
Forum Title Date
Tortoise and Turtle Articles Taxonomic assessment of Alligator Snapping Turtles new species from the southeastern United States Apr 19, 2014

Share This Page