Most sea turtles now female in north Great Barrier Reef

Delia Watkins
January 10, 2018

This unique biological trait of these creatures is what that has jeopardised their future in an increasingly warmer world as rising temperatures due to climate change are turning one of the world's largest sea turtle colonies nearly entirely female, a new study revealed. Cooler temperatures mean more males, while warmer ones mean more females.

Development of sex in humans and some other mammals depend upon chromosomes but in case of turtle, the temperature under which the eggs incubate determines the sex.

Warming seas are turning male turtles into females, scientists have discovered.

Of green turtles from warmer northern nesting beaches, 99.1 percent of juveniles, 99.8 percent of subadults and 86.8 percent of adults were female.

"With warming global temperatures and most sea turtle populations naturally producing offspring above the pivotal temperature, it is clear that climate change poses a serious threat to the persistence of these populations".

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The study analyzed more than 400 turtles and was conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in Australia.

The research examined two genetically distinct populations of turtles on the reef, finding the northern group of about 200,000 animals was overwhelmingly female. They found that more than 2,00,000 animals were female in the northern group, in the southern group the female population was 65 to 69 percent. The increasing rate shows that the place will have only female turtles in the near future.

Scientists say too many turtles have turned female because of rising sea temperatures in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

For now, the important matter is to look into the current sex ratios in the adult breeding population, and what they might look like after some years from now when these young turtles grow up, Jansen stated. Sea turtle gender is dependent on the incubation temperature while a turtle is an embryo, a characteristic common in some reptiles.

Green sea turtles are considered endangered throughout much of the world, under siege from coastal debris, loss of habitat, fishing nets, and pollution, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "We know that species evolve in response to climate and other environmental changes, but they need time for that".

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