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What Happened to All the Male Sea Turtles?

Did you know the sex of a sea turtle is determined by how hot or cold the sand is where the eggs are buried?

That's right! Warmer sands produce females and cooler sands produce males.

For the last 35 years scientists have suspected climate change with higher air and sea temperatures would affect the male-female balance of all seven of the world’s sea turtle populations—greens, loggerheads, leatherbacks, hawksbills, flatbacks, olive, and Kemp's ridleys.

Raine Island, situated on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is home to the largest and most important green sea turtle rookery* in the world. More than 200,000 sea turtles nest there every year. Mostly females have been born there for quite a while. In the 1980’s, there was only one male for every six females. But now, climate change is affecting the turtles more than than scientists could have imagined.

In 2017, they were shocked to discover females now outnumber males 116 to one! For at least twenty years, Raine Island has been producing almost exclusively females. This could wipe out entire populations!

116 females for every 1 male
For the last 20 years, the largest nesting ground in the world has been producing females sea turtles almost exclusively.

Climate change isn’t the only problem. On the other side of the world in the Caribbean, logging has further reduced shade that keeps the beaches cool enough to produce males. Marble, the injured sea turtle in BACKWATER GUMSHOE, is a male. Now you know why it's so important we take care of these magnificent creatures!

Check out the entire article from National Geographic here:

*A rookery is an area where a species breeds and makes their nests.

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