There’s a genetic explanation for why warmer nests turn turtles female | Science News

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There’s a genetic explanation for why warmer nests turn turtles female

Scientists have ID’d a temperature-sensitive gene that controls young turtles’ sex fate

By
2:00pm, May 10, 2018
red-eared slider turtle

TURTLE TRICK  Scientists have identified a gene in the red-eared slider turtle, shown here, that makes embryonic turtles turn male or female depending on nest temperature.

Toastier nest temperatures, rather than sex chromosomes, turn baby turtles female. Now, a genetic explanation for how temperature determines turtles’ sex is emerging: Scientists have identified a temperature-responsive gene that sets turtle embryos on a path to being either male or female. When researchers dialed down that gene early in development, turtle embryos incubating at the cooler climes that would normally yield males turned out female instead, researchers report in the May 11 Science.

Scientists have struggled since the 1960s to explain how a temperature cue can flip the sex switch for turtles and other reptiles (SN Online: 1/8/18). That’s partly because gene-manipulating techniques that are well-established in mice don’t work in reptiles, says study coauthor Blanche

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