Why 99% of sea turtle babies are now born female

Scientists have cited the increasing temperatures of the planet as the reason why 99% of sea turtles are born female.

The recent heat waves have caused the sand on the beaches to get so scorched that nearly every sea turtle there was born female. While it is a problem faced globally, such was the case with the beaches in Florida.

The birth of sea turtles takes place during relatively warm weather when pregnant sea turtles crawl over to the beach to dig a nest so as to lay their eggs. In a phenomenon known as Temperature-Dependant Sex Determination, the eggs that are laid in the sand have their sex-dependent completely on the temperature of the sand. Cool sand leads to more males being hatched and warmer sand leads to more females being hatched.

“The last four summers have been the hottest in Florida record”

Bette Zirkelbach

“The frightening thing is the last four summers in Florida have been the hottest summers on record,” said the manager of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Bette Zirkelbach.

“Scientists that are studying sea turtle hatchlings and eggs have found no boy sea turtle, so only female sea turtles for the past four years,” she continued.

The pattern is only one of several indications that the climate crisis is disrupting the natural ecosystems of the planet and progressing too quickly for many species to adapt.

She also said that an Australian study on the matter has shown similar results and that “99% of new turtle babies are female.”

Sea Turtles of the Great Barrier Reef

Breezy Explainer: Why 99% of sea turtle babies are now born female

The 2018 research published in the journal Current Biology found that about 99.8% of green sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef are female. Such was the case for the relatively older generation of sea turtles. However, a slightly younger group had about 99.1% female turtles.

The co-author of the study, Camryn Allen of the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research said, “It was surprising and we were not expecting it at all. We didn’t expect it to be that extreme.”

The study analyzed more than 400 sea turtles and had researchers from the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as other institutions. The con of this extremely lopsided split in the gender of the species is that it could lead to the collapse of sea turtles, or it could lead to the extinction of the species. The only way to stop this would be for there to be efforts made in the direction of lowering the nesting temperatures for sea turtles.

“We don’t have genetic diversity”: Rodriguez

“Over the years, you’re going to see a sharp decline in their population because we just don’t have the genetic diversity,” said Melissa Rodriguez, a sea turtle keeper at the Miami Zoo. “We don’t have the male-to-female ratio needed in order to be able to have successful breeding sessions.”

On top of this, turtles are also seen affected with tumors known as fibropapillomatosis or FP. These tumors are known to cause death if they are not treated effectively and on time.

Zirkelbach recognizes the need to preserve every turtle she can and establish more rehabilitation facilities because the future of turtles is impacted by climate change and the disease is so pervasive

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