Bad News, Boys: Climate Change Is linked to All-Female Populations of Sea Turtle Hatchlings

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There were zero male loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings found at test beaches on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, according to a study by Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, a biological sciences professor at Florida Atlantic University.

The phenomenon is similar across other sea turtle species in the state as well. Leatherbacks and green sea turtles are also predominantly female.

The majority of sea turtles born along the coast of Florida have been female for over a dozen years, according to the report published in USA Today  this week. This strange finding could be linked to climate change.

Unlike humans, a sea turtle’s gender is determined by the temperature of the sand around the eggs; and warmer sand typically means the hatchlings will be female. Therefore, hotter temperatures means less males.

What’s more, is that this problem has been observed in states up north as well. In fact, Wyneken found more males located in Florida than in the states up north.

This female phenomenon has been observed by researchers in Australia, too. In a recent study, scientists found that in a major nesting area 99.1 percent of juvenile sea turtles and 86.8 percent of the entire population were female.

Climate change could also be responsible for the decrease in how many hatchlings are able to make to emerge from their nests. This is because the hot, dry sand makes the belaboring process much more difficult.

While Wyneken reported that shading or watering turtles’ nests is a favorable short term solution, she told USA Today that “we’ve got to keep the world from getting hotter.”

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