Florida's turtles are now mostly born female

Florida's turtles are now mostly born female

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The turtles in Florida are feeling the heat from rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Turtle on beach
Turtle on beach

Rising temperatures are making it too hot for Florida’s turtles to enter the dating scene—literally.

The recent heat waves have raised the temperature of the sand on some beaches so much that nearly all turtles born in the last four summers have been female.

A turtle's gender depends on the temperature of the developing eggs, and this is dependent on the temperature of the sand in which the eggs are buried.

The National Ocean Service website states that if the eggs incubate below 27.7 degrees Celsius, the hatchlings would be male, and if the temperature raises above 31 degrees Celsius, the hatchlings would be female. Temperatures in-between would produce a mix of male and female hatchlings. 

"Scientists that are studying sea turtle hatchlings and eggs have found no boy sea turtles, so only female sea turtles for the past four years," said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, a city in the Florida Keys, in a Reuters report. 

Melissa Rosales Rodriguez, a sea turtle keeper at the Miami Zoo's turtle hospital, predicted that there would be a sharp decline in the turtle population due to the drop in genetic diversity. "We don't have the male-to-female ratio needed in order to be able to have successful breeding sessions," she said. 

This situation in Florida is worsened by the fact that the two turtle hospitals are seeing more turtles stricken with tumours known as fibropapillomatosis, or FP. The condition is easily spread to other turtles and can lead to death.

Under such dire conditions, Zirkelbach sees a need for more turtle rehab centres. "The Turtle Hospital was the first. But, sadly and fortunately, there's a need all throughout Florida."


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