UCLA researchers part of team that outlines tough prospects turtles face for survival

March 15, 2021

UCLA conservation geneticist Brad Shaffer comments in a new study that turtles are facing a grim future due to rising sea levels. An expansive phylogenetic tree reveals clues about the animals’ past and future, and the paper highlights one of the most complete phylogenetic trees ever created for any major animal group. Phylogenetic trees are branching diagrams that show evolutionary relationships among organisms, including information on how species are interrelated and when they evolved into separate species.  

Image Source: Thida Leiper/Wildlife Conservation Society

About 60% of the world’s turtles are considered threatened or endangered, making them one of the most vulnerable groups of animals on the planet. “There aren’t very many species of turtles and tortoises to begin with, so we don’t have many to lose.” said Shaffer, senior author of the paper.

Read more in UCLA Newsroom.

Study authors:

Robert Thomson, evolutionary biologist, University of Hawaii School of Life Sciences

Phillip Spinks, research associate, La Kretz Centerfor California Conservation Science, Institute of Environment and Sustainability

Brad Shaffer, conservation geneticist, La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, Institute of Environment and Sustainability