Nearly all the Great Barrier Reef sea turtles have turned female

Nearly all the Great Barrier Reef sea turtles have turned female

Because of warmer than average temperatures in Australia's Great Barrier Reef area, the past twenty years has seen very few male green sea turtles born. That means the temperature surrounding on the beach, also known as a rookery. In the adult turtles, 87 percent are female, signifying that there has been a reposition in gender ratios in the course of past few decades. The temperature for the green turtles is 29.3 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit).

Mr O'Gorman said it was yet another indicator that climate change was having negative impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

For the study, researchers with NOAA, California State University and Worldwide Fund for Nature Australia examined two populations of green sea turtles living in the northern and southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

With warming global temperatures and most sea turtle populations naturally producing offspring above the pivotal temperature [14], it is clear that climate change poses a serious threat to the persistence of these populations.

A study published today in the journal Current Biology - led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. and in conjunction with scientists from Australia - found the group of turtles had primarily produced females for two decades, because of increasing temperatures.

"This is extreme ― like capital letters extreme, exclamation point extreme", Camryn Allen, marine biologist and co-author of the study, . Males breed far more often than females, but researchers don't know to what extent the handful remaining can make up for all their missing brothers.

In one population towards the southern end of the reef, the turtles skewed 65-69% female, according to the researchers.While that's bad for that populatio' survival rate, it's not almost as alarming as what the researchers found in a genetically distinct population in the warmer areas toward the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. That's exactly what's happening among the turtle populations the researchers observed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The findings provide a new understanding of how warming temperatures are affecting sea turtle populations and how they will respond to climate change.


David Owens, a professor emeritus from the College of Charleston in SC, was not involved in the new study but said he has dreamed of doing such research for years.

The gender shift has been noticed before by people who study hatchlings, said Jeanette Wyneken, a sea-turtle expert and professor at Florida Atlantic University, who was not involved in the new research.

"But for this population we were quite surprised to find this result, because this is one of the largest sea turtle populations in the world and we would expect them to be doing very well".

"Is this species liable to go extinct?"

The group conducted its research over 16 days in July 2014, plying small boats around the Howick Group of islands in the north Great Barrier Reef - "an absolutely magical place", according to Jensen. Females are also a whopping 86.8% of adult green sea turtles.

"It's one of those really important studies that puts together several different types of data that answers a question that has been standing out for a long time", said Wyneken. If temperatures continue to increase, or at least fail to stabilize, the researchers said the "complete feminization" of this population of turtles is possible in the near future.

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