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Climate Change is Making This Species Switch Sex, Possibly Leading to Their Extinction

Jul 02, 2016 02:57 AM EDT
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Climate change is reportedly changing male reptiles into females, and this may lead to an all-male reptile population--and eventually extinction.

Last year, it was reported by several media outlets that Central bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are undergoing instant sex reversal because of the unusual high temperature that they are experiencing within their habitat.

According to the study published in the journal Nature, the Australian species demonstrated transitioning from genotypic to temperature-dependent sex determination.

After studying 131 wild-caught bearded dragons in Queensland province, the researchers found that 11 of them were female who are able to produce offspring but had the ZZ chromosomes of a genetic male.

"Most mechanistic models of transitions invoke a role for sex reversal. Sex reversal has not yet been demonstrated in nature for any amniote, although it occurs in fish and rarely in amphibians," the study said.

Some reptiles use temperature as means to determine sex. Daily Mail said Central bearded dragons had their gender based on chromosomes, until the recent study found out otherwise.

As explained by ABC News, male bearded dragons usually have two Z chromosomes and females usually have a Z and a W chromosome. At lower temperatures, the female determines the sex of her offspring by passing on either a Z or a W chromosome.

In addition to switching sex, the study also found out that the sex-reversed females were able to give birth and are actually more fertile than those who came out as normal females . The findings can lead to having an all-male reptile population, thus threatening the number of the species.

"They're throwing away the equivalent of the Y, which we call the W, chromosome," co-author Arthur Georges, chief scientist for the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra told The Associated Press.

"If the climate warms not much more at all, the percentage of sex reversal will increase and the W chromosome will be lost from the population," he added.

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