Warmer temperatures cause sea turtles to be born female
Monday, January 15, 2018, 14:33 - Rising temperatures in Australia's northern Great Barrier Reef are causing the vast majority of Green Turtles born to be female, a new study has found.
Published on Tuesday (January 9) in the journal Current Biology, the report - from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California State University and Worldwide Fund for Nature Australia (WWF) - warns that the almost entire feminisation of Green Turtles in the Northern Barrier Reef could threaten the future of the population.
It found that increasing temperatures, associated with climate change, are inducing warmer incubations of eggs, leading to more female hatchlings.
The study focused on two genetically different groups of Green Turtles on the reef - the northern and southern populations.
Scientists caught green turtles at the Howick Group of Islands - a place where both populations inhabit - and through tests identified the turtles' sex and nesting origin.
It discovered that in the northern population, more than 99 per cent of the juvenile and subadult populations and an increasing 86 per cent of adults were female, while the southern population was up to 69 per cent female.
WWF CEO Dermot O'Gorman said that urgent measures to tackle climate change are needed to sustain the northern populations.
"We're now seeing on those northern beaches virtually no males being born," Gorman said. "And that really rings alarm bells for the long term survival of those northern green turtle population."
The Department of Environment in Queensland have been trialling various measures to lower sand temperatures in southern parts of the state.
"Options might be that we look at the option of providing shade or there's an option that we can consider of having artificial rain, that would cool the beach also," Chief Scentist Dr Colin Limpus said.
Gorman also suggested protecting male turtles from nets and bycatch would improve the health of the population.
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