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Climate Changes Change Sex Of Great Barrier Reef Turtles

10 January 2018

A new scientific paper has warned the northern population, believed to be the largest in the world and consisting of more than 200,000 nesting females, could eventually drastically fall without males.

The "pivotal temperature" that creates a 50/50 split of male and female can be passed down from parent to offspring.

"With average global temperature predicted to increase 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2100, many sea turtle populations are in danger of high egg mortality and female-only offspring production", said the report.

Maybe in future, there will be only male turtles.

The gender breakdown of the turtles varied across the reef, with the southern population 65%-69 per cent female, while among the northern group 99.1 per cent of juveniles are female, 99.8 per cent of subadults and 86.8 per cent of adults.

Scientists found "extremely female-biased" populations in the northern area of the reef.

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A green sea turtle on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Port Douglas.

A shift of just a few degrees can have big impacts on sex outcomes in sea turtles. Using a combination of endocrinology and genetic tests, researchers identified the turtles' sex and nesting origin. The new study has given some significant information about the current situation of the green sea turtles, informed lead author Dr. Michael Jensen, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While in the warmer northern tip of the Reef, female green turtles accounted for a staggering 87 to 99.8 per cent of the population. The increasing rate shows that the place will have only female turtles in the near future.

For many reptiles, sex is determined not by chromosomes, but by the temperature at which their eggs are incubated.

"Realizing what the sex proportions in the grown-up reproducing populace are today, and what they may look like five, 10 and quite a while from now when these youthful turtles grow up and move toward becoming grown-ups, will be extraordinarily profitable".

Warming temperatures are turning one of the world's largest sea turtle populations in Australia's Great Barrier Reef nearly entirely female, running the risk that the colony may not sustain itself in coming decades, a study has found. Sand temperatures determine the sex of turtle hatchlings, with warmer temperatures resulting in more females. "We know that species evolve in response to climate and other environmental changes, but they need time for that".

Climate Changes Change Sex Of Great Barrier Reef Turtles