Warming ocean water is turning 99 percent of these sea turtles female | Science News

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Warming ocean water is turning 99 percent of these sea turtles female

Rising temperatures are skewing population ratios toward extreme imbalance

By
7:30pm, January 8, 2018
green sea turtle

TURTLE TROUBLE  Green sea turtle populations in parts of the Great Barrier Reef are becoming increasingly female because their eggs are being incubated at higher temperatures due to warming ocean waters. 

Warming waters are turning some sea turtle populations female — to the extreme. More than 99 percent of young green turtles born on beaches along the northern Great Barrier Reef are female, researchers report January 8 in Current Biology. If that imbalance in sex continues, the overall population could shrink.

Green sea turtle embryos develop as male or female depending on the temperature at which they incubate in sand. Scientists have known that warming ocean waters are skewing sea turtle populations toward having more females, but quantifying the imbalance has been hard.

Researchers analyzed hormone levels in turtles collected on the Great Barrier Reef (off the northeastern coast of Australia) to determine their sex, and then used genetic data to link individuals to the beaches where the animals originated. That two-pronged approach allowed the scientists to estimate the ratio of

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