Turtles with gender problems

A crisis is unfolding at the Pacific Ocean’s largest green sea turtle rookery. Will this become a global problem?

Since you can’t determine a sea turtle’s sex by looking at the animal, scientists organised a “turtle rodeo” were they tried to catch as many turtles as possible. After catching them, the scientists took DNA and blood samples and inspected the gender of the turtles.

Because the sex of a sea turtle is determined by the heat of sand around the eggs, scientist expected to see more female than male turtles. Climate change has driven air and sea temperatures higher, and higher temperatures favor female offspring.

The results were unexpected.

ic: Green sea turtle global warming

 They didn’t just find a higher population of female turtles, they found a population of almost only female turtles. The males were outnumbered by an shocking 116 to 1!

SHOCKED! Camryn Allen, a turtle scientist, was shocked with the results. This news was so extreme that it was hard to believe. There have always been more female than male sea turtles. But before the last century the results were 3 to 1. This is a huge difference with the 116 to 1 we have today. What will happen when there are no more male sea turtles? That would mean the death of an entire species.

This study took place in the northern Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where the biggest population of sea turtles thrive. This problem is even bigger when we look at smaller populations, where it will be hard to find even a few male sea turtles.

Australian Great Barrier Rief