Hotter Climate Could Lead to Female-Dominated Sea Turtle Population

May 19, 2014 04:35 PM EDT

The world can one day be run entirely by females - in the sea turtle world that is. Climate experts warn that populations of sea turtles could turn all female if humans don't take measures to control the Earth's rising temperatures.

It is known among the scientific community that reptile reproduction is highly sensitive to temperature, with the ratio of male to female offspring varying, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. For species of sea turtles, the point of no return starts at about 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) for incubation, beyond which more females emerge from the eggs.

At about 30.5 degrees Celsius (86.9 degrees Fahrenheit), populations become fully female. As remaining males die off, ''it will be end of story without human intervention," Professor Graeme Hays from Deakin University said.

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''There'll be a bit of a breathing space ... but down the track it'll be serious,'' Hays added.

At higher than 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit), embryos do not survive.

A study on the loggerhead turtle in the Atlantic was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. The research notes that in the long-term sea turtle populations will be devastated as males die off and females take over. But the paper also revealed that in the short term, a hotter climate could help sea turtles for the better by boosting the number of females in the population, according to the Daily Mail.

After studying these Cape Verde Island turtles, researchers found that light-colored sandy beaches already produce 70.1 percent females while beaches with darker sands are at 93.5 percent.

These Atlantic turtles aren't the only ones facing a declining population due to warming. The number of Green Turtles in the Caribbean is already dwindling and the study revealed that these populations are now at less than one percent of their original numbers.

And amidst climate change, these marine animals not only have to worry about hotter temperatures, but rising sea levels as well.

"Rising sea levels resulting in the loss of nesting beaches (through erosion) could push local turtle populations over the brink unless new suitable nesting beaches are found," Hays said.

He added that it remains to be seen whether sea turtle populations can adapt to a rapidly changing Earth.

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