Warming turning major sea turtle population female: Study
Warming turning major sea turtle population female: Study

Melbourne: Warming temperatures are turning one of the world's largest sea turtle populations in Australia's Great Barrier Reef almost 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. 

During the past two decades, temperatures on islands in Australia's northern Great Barrier Reef have increased to the point "that virtually no male turtles are now being produced from these nesting beaches," said researchers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in the US. 

The study published in the journal Current Biology "raises new concerns over the immediate threats of climate change to sea turtle populations". The results will be important for wildlife managers as they consider strategies to lower incubation temperatures at key rookeries around the world.

 This may help "boost the ability of local turtle populations to adapt to the changing environment and avoid a population collapse or even extinction". Although researchers have known for decades that warming temperatures alter the sex of sea turtle offspring, this is the first time they have directly documented the trend in a major wild population.