A ground-breaking study sheds new light on the genetic diversity of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, uncovering new and unique genetic variation across six nesting sites in Indonesia’s Java Sea.

The pioneering research led by IPB University marks Indonesia’s first comprehensive genetic analysis of hawksbill turtles, revealing five new genetically distinct population groups that were previously unknown to researchers and conservation practitioners.

“Our research indicates that hawksbill turtles in the Java Sea display remarkable genetic diversity, particularly on small islands. We believe that similar diversity patterns may be observed in other parts of Indonesia, given its abundance of small islands and dense coral reef habitats, but more studies are needed to understand their genetic variability,” said lead author Iqbal Sani, Master’s student in the Marine Science Programme at Indonesia’s IPB University (Bogor).

The study was made possible through collaboration among several universities and conservation groups in Indonesia and the wider region. In the study, researchers collected small tissue samples from nesting hawksbill turtles on isolated islands in the Java Sea. The samples were then shipped to the genetics laboratory at IPB’s Department of Marine Science and Technology, where DNA was extracted to examine the turtles’ mitochondrial DNA d-loop, a key genetic marker.