Female Turtles Outnumbering Males In Warmer Climates

First Posted: Feb 04, 2016 03:02 PM EST

Apparently female turtles have been outnumbering males. Researchers found that increasing global temperatures is creating a gender imbalance among marine turtle populations, according to a study led by Florida State University.

The researchers used Brazilian loggerhead turtles to determine how rising temperatures affect the species. The team found that warmer temperatures tend to produce higher numbers of female turtles.

"We're concerned we're going to have a feminization of marine turtles," Mariana Fuentes, coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "This study came from the need to understand the current sex ratio being produced at loggerhead nesting grounds to establish baseline parameters as climate change progresses and to identify beaches that produce a higher proportion of males."

The researchers set about to identify beaches that produce higher numbers of male turtles in order to determine where the imbalances were taking place. The team analyzed 25 years' worth of data for 21 nesting beaches throughout coastal Brazil, which is approximately 373 miles worth of nesting areas. They found that nesting areas in northern Brazil were 94 percent females among the loggerhead species. While northern Brazil was dominated by female turtles, they found that nesting beaches in southern Brazil were producing a higher numbers of male hatchlings - 47 percent, which is necessary to maintain the population.

"It's worrying that you could have an extreme skew in gender one way. Any changes in population structure can have real repercussions," Fuentes said.

The researchers noted that rising temperatures affects the sex of marine turtles. Temperatures below 85.1 degrees result in more male turtles while temperatures above that yield more female turtles.

The findings of this study were published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

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