Climate Change - We are Running Out of Males
Already endangered green sea turtles face a new threat. Climate change may be extinguishing all males and annihilating the species. In the 1970s, the species were near extinction in Florida, but environmentalists, government agencies, and individual residents saved them.
A Florida turtle hospital reported that over the last four years, every turtle they examined turned out to be a female—a worrisome trend that the hospital links to climate change.
The sea turtle's sex may be determined, at least in part, by the temperature of the sand in the nesting area.
The ratio of female sea turtles to male sea turtles is around 10 to 1, and as the sand grows hotter, there are fewer and fewer male sea turtles born.
The impact of this pattern on the continued existence of several kinds of sea turtles has been the subject of debate amongst experts. In any case, one expert told Insider that climate change is placing significant pressure on endangered species.
An ecologist from the University of Exeter named Lucy Hawkes, who has been researching this phenomenon since 2007, said that there are seven different species of sea turtles, and all of them produce more females as the temperature rises.
In an email to Insider, she said, "Every single one of them has very feminine skewed gender ratios."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States, the gender of any sea turtle that hatches from an egg that was incubated in the sand at a temperature higher than 88.8 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) will be female (NOAA).
According to Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, which is located in the city of Marathon located in the Florida Keys, the four most recent summers have been the warmest on record.
She said that during the previous four years, researchers who study sea turtle hatchlings and eggs have not discovered any male sea turtles, meaning they have only found female sea turtles.
The phenomenon has been seen in every region of the planet. According to the findings of research conducted in 2018, 99 percent of the turtles in Eastern Australia were female.
Running out of available males?
Opinions among specialists about the potential impact that this may have on sea turtle populations are divided.
It was reported in 2018 by The Washington Post that biologist David Owens, a professor emeritus at the College of Charleston, predicted that within a few decades to a century, "There will not be enough males in sea turtle populations."
According to Melissa Rosales Rodriguez, a sea turtle keeper at the Miami Zoo, the reduction in the number of male sea turtles might result in an unsustainable rally low level of genetic variation within the species.
On the other hand, Hawkes said to Insider that it is most certainly more complicated than that.
According to her, it is unclear what the "ideal" gender balance should look like.
It is usual for a group of sea turtle nests to give birth to around 90 percent of females, and data implies that just a few males are required to fertilize all of the eggs.
According to what she stated, it is feasible, for example, that "having many females might be an evolutionary adaptation to boost the population from becoming threatened."
According to the findings of a few studies, it is also possible for male offspring to be created from an incubator that is too hot if the eggs are damp.
She remarked, "We don't believe that's going to happen too soon." "If you ran out of all men, that would be a hazard to the population," she said.
Whatever the case, there is no doubting that the effects of climate change are placing stress on marine turtles.
According to her, this leads to an increase in the frequency of storms, each of which has the potential to destroy thousands of nests simultaneously while they are in the process of incubation, as well as an increase in sea level, which causes the nest to be flooded and the eggs to perish.
According to Hawkes, "the most important thing we can do in this area is restricted development of nesting beaches," which translates to reducing the number of new hotels, condominiums, and other structures developed behind the beach.