North American Box Turtle Conservation Committee


Lucille F. Stickel Award Workshops About Us

Research supported by the
Lucille F. Stickel Box Turtle Research Award


Martin, B.T., Bernstein, N.P., Birkhead, R.D., Koukl, J.F., Mussmann, S.M., Placyk Jr., J.S. 2013. Sequence-based molecular phylogenetics and phylogeography of the American box turtles (Terrapene spp.) with support from DNA barcoding. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 68(2013)119–134.

The classification of the American box turtles (Terrapene spp.) has remained enigmatic to systematists. Previous comprehensive phylogenetic studies focused primarily on morphology. The goal of this study was to re-assess the classification of Terrapene spp. by obtaining DNA sequence data from abroad geo- graphic range and from all four recognized species and 11subspecies within the genus.Tissue samples were obtained for all taxa except for Terrapene nelsoni klauberi . DNA was extracted,and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b (Cytb) and nuclear DNA (nucDNA) glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate-dehydrogenase (GAPD) genes were amplified via polymerase chain reaction and sequenced. In addition,the mtDNA gene commonly used for DNA barcoding (cytochrome oxidasec subunit I; COI) was amplified and sequenced to calculate pairwise percent DNA sequence divergence comparisons for each Terrapene taxon. The sequence data were analyzed using maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic inference,a molecular clock, AMOVAs, SAMOVAs, haplotype networks,and pairwise percent sequence divergence comparisons. Terrapene carolina mexicana and T. c.yucatana formed a monophyletic clade with T. c.triunguis , and this clade was paraphyletic to the rest of T. carolina . Terrapene ornata ornata and T. o.luteola lacked distinction phylogenetically, and Terrapene nelsoni was confirmed to be the sister taxon of T. ornata . Terrapene c. major , T. c. bauri , and Terrapene coahuila were not well resolved for some of the analyses.The DNA barcoding results indicated that all taxa were different species (>2%sequence divergence)except for T. c.triunguis – T. c.mexicana and T. o.ornata – T. o.luteola . The results suggest that T. c.triunguis should be elevated to species status (Terrapene mexicana), and mexicana and yucatana should be included in this group as subspecies. In addition, T. o.ornata and T. o.luteola should not be considered separate subspecies.The DNA barcoding data support these recommended taxonomic revisions. Because conservation efforts are typically species-based, these results will be important for facilitating successful conservation management strategies.




All materials on this website, including materials available for download, photographs, graphics, and site code, are Copyright © 2007 - 2013 North American Box Turtle Conservation Committee or their respective owners.  All rights reserved.