Uncovering the genomes of sea turtles

April 12th, 2021

Flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) nesting.. Credit: © Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA)

Environomics FSP director, Olly Berry, is part of a team who were awarded a grant from Revive & Restore to sequence the genomes of the five remaining sea turtle species whose genomes remain un-sequenced.

The seven extant sea turtle species inhabit all oceans except the polar regions and are classified as vulnerable to critically endangered by the IUCN. This is overwhelmingly due to human activities.

Recent developments in genomic analyses show significant promise for understanding key gaps in sea turtle conservation biology, including identifying origin of illegally traded sea turtle products, estimating population abundances for risk assessments, age determination, adaptive capacity under climate change, and identifying distinct population segments for management. However, a lack of genomic resources for this iconic group hampers these conservation efforts.

The project will construct high quality, annotated reference genomes for all extant sea turtle species, including Australia’s flatback turtle, and underpin future applications of genomic tools for sea turtle management.