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U.S. Notes | Marine Wildlife

Scorching hot U.S. beaches are frying baby sea turtles alive

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 11:42 AM - Abnormally hot sand on Florida beaches is heating up sea turtle nests, and biologists expect the problem to worsen.

During the warmest months of the year, female sea turtles come ashore and lay their eggs in little pits along the beach, nesting them until they hatch. But recently, abnormally hot sand has been overheating the nests, literally cooking the developing embryos before they hatch.

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"In some places the nests are getting so hot that there’s no survival," marine biologist Kristin Mazzarellatold Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Oceana.

"The eggs don't hatch."

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"We’re seeing more dead eggs," sea turtle biologist Jeanette Wyneken, a marine biologist in Boca Raton, Fla., told Oceana. "And when we do get turtles hatching, they’re often heat stressed. They may hatch and crawl to the water, but then die."

The unusually hot sand only adds to the list of human-made tribulations that baby sea turtles encounter, including poachers, plastic, and fishing gear.

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Sea turtle nests once thrived in Boca Raton. Wyneken told Oceana that between 78 and 81 per cent of loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtle eggs once hatched along its shores in the past.

Record high temperatures, however, destroyed nests over the past two years. Only 58 per cent of eggs hatched in 2015, Wyneken said — a number that dwindled to just 38 per cent in 2016.

RELATED VIDEO: Sea turtle rescued from Florida Keys resident's pool, captured on camera. Watch below.

A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change finds this pattern will place in in Costa Rica, too. /p>

The study predicts that the eastern Pacific's severely endangered leatherback populations will decline by 7 per cent every decade, with 75 per cent of the population expected to disappear by 2100.

The biggest threat that leading to this decline is overheated nests.

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