Thursday, 18 January, 2018

Most sea turtles now female in northern Great Barrier Reef

Male turtles turning into females due to warming of the oceans scientists claim It’s feared that some turtle species will be wiped out because not enough males are being born
Doris Mccormick | 09 January, 2018, 14:40

Scientists researching the impact of climate change on one of the world's largest sea turtle populations have found that turtle eggs, laid on warmer beaches along the north-east coast of Australia, can produce animals nearly entirely of the female gender.

Climate change is not the only threat to green sea turtles, which are classified as an endangered species.

The results, which were determined through non-fatal genetic testing and endocrinology, show that a 99.1 percent female bias exists in the hotter northern region.

"Furthermore, extreme incubation temperatures not only produce female-only hatchlings but also cause high mortality of developing clutches", the study said.

"The most important thing is for Australia and the rest of the world to set ambitious targets to reduce emissions and bring global warming under control". With rising temperatures, no more males would be around to mate with females, which could ultimately crash the whole population of sea turtles. Around 65-69 percent of turtles coming from beaches in the Southern Great Barrier were discovered to be female.

"It is deeply concerning, because if it continues we're going to start to lose the male population, [which is] essential for breeding and keeping those populations sustainable in one of the world's most important green turtle populations", said WWF Australia chief Dermot O'Gorman.

Scientists believe the northern Great Barrier Reef rookeries have been producing primarily females for more than two decades.

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However, WWF and scientists from NOAA suggested there were some short-term solutions.

Mr O'Gorman agreed "all is not lost" for the Green Turtle and scientists could find ways to lower nest temperatures., including by installing shade cloths.

At what biologists call the pivot temperature of 85 degrees, turtles hatch as a mixture of males and females.

"But at Raine Island they're considering having artificial rain".

Among adult green sea turtles, the total proportion of females was 86.8%. Just a few degrees can tip a delicate natural balance.

A recent global by the University of Exeter found that more than 1,000 marine turtles were dying after becoming entangled in rubbish every year, while another found that 90% of young green turtles had plastic waste in their gut.

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