Image: The Sun
Did you know that a sea turtle’s gender is determined by how warm or cold its surroundings are when it is still an egg?
Unlike humans and most mammals whose gender development is developed by chromosomes, the sex of reptiles, like turtles, is determined by the incubation temperature of the egg.
In other words, just a few degrees difference in the temperature can actually change the balance of the sea turtle population.
And apparently, the female sea turtles like it warm. Warmer nests that are usually dug into beaches would lead to more female eggs, while cooler temperatures mean more males.
Now this is a problem, especially at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
One of the world’s largest green sea turtle populations which calls this place home is now seeing a large majority of females because of climate change.
According to a study in the journal ‘Current Biology’
, more than 200,000 green sea turtles nesting at the area along the east coast of Queensland could face trouble without more males around.
“With average global temperature predicted to increase 4.7 Fahrenheit (2.6 Celsius) by 2100, many sea turtle populations are in danger of high egg mortality and female-only offspring production,” the report stated.
The study found two distinct populations of green sea turtles along the Great Barrier Reef. Those located in the southern part, which is cooler, had a moderate female population of 65 to 69 percent.
However, the northern Great Barrier Reef saw 99.1 per cent female among juveniles, 99.8 per cent for those between juveniles and adults and 86.8 percent of adults.
"Knowing what the sex ratios in the adult breeding population are today and what they might look like 5, 10 and 20 years from now when these young turtles grow up and become adults is going to be incredibly valuable,” researchers said.
Although the fact that there are almost no males left among the young northern green sea turtles should ring alarm bells, but there is still hope because this information will give scientists and turtle conservationists an idea of what the current situation is and come up with strategies to help this endangered population.