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High Temps Scorch Endangered Sea Turtle Eggs

High Temps Scorch Endangered Sea Turtle Eggs

Thanks to toxic oil spills, ocean pollution, poaching, and human development that disrupts their breeding grounds, the survival rate of leatherback sea turtles has been dwindling for quite some time. Now, university researchers have found that extremely hot temperatures brought on by climate change are causing even more problems for eastern Pacific populations of this endangered species.

When temperatures soar into the triple digits the way they have this past week, many humans seek relief in the ocean. Unfortunately for the sea turtle eggs buried on many of those same beaches, extreme heat is often fatal. Using a climate-forced population dynamics model, scientists were able to predict what might happen to sea turtles if global temperatures continue to climb. High egg and hatchling mortality associated with warmer, drier beach conditions emerged as the most significant cause of the projected climate-related population decline.

This means that increasing temperatures below the sand will make it harder for turtle eggs and hatchlings to survive. Additionally, temperature inside the nest affects turtles’ sex ratio, with most male hatchlings emerging during cooler, rainier seasons to join the predominantly-female turtle population. If actual climate patterns follow projections in the study, the already endangered eastern Pacific population of leatherback turtles will decline by 75 percent by the year 2100.

For the population to recover successfully, said Dr. James Spotila, the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University, “the challenge is to produce as many good hatchlings as possible. That requires us to be hands-on and manipulate the beach to make sure that happens.”

Spotila’s research team is already investigating methods such as watering and shading turtle nests that could mitigate the impact of hot, dry beach conditions on hatching success.

Related Reading:

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Image via Thinkstock

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7:10AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

I hope the scientists are able to help.

7:16AM PDT on Jul 8, 2012

evidence that slowing global warming should be a component of protection of endangered species too?

8:56PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Thanks for the article.

7:45AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

thanks for sharing.

12:09AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Temps just keep rising! How are we and all living creatures to survive this? It's going to be a long hot haul!

5:15PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Some great comments. We need to ban together and stop this destruction to our earth. God promises to destroy those that are destroying our earth. We are here to help him do that.

1:18PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

@AIKI--I love turtles too. I've wondered how climate change is going to affect reptiles since temperature determines the sex for many species. I can imagine the earth has had fluctuations in the past and possibly for many years at a time turtles produced more of one sex than another. However, in the past we also had more turtles to begin with. With fewer turtles, fluctuations like these will have a greater impact than they did years ago. Are turtles going to have to be artificially administered to indefinitely? A sad state of affairs.

We have the Pacific Northwest only native turtles being driven to extinction because the greed of Petsmart/Petco in insisting that the sale of Red-eared sliders remain legal--and ensuring the turtles are dumped into the ecosystem when they get too big for aquariums. These sliders are driving out the few native turtles we have. And to top it off, virtually all sea turtles are endangered from human activity. The only bright spot is there are more jellyfish for them to eat, but that's due to our overfishing--which kills turtles in nets. It's not looking good for the world's turtles, unless you are a Red-eared slider for some reason. Heck, if it gets TOO hot, it may be even rough on them.

10:22AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

We have sped up the process, and with our help, we may be able to reverse that trend.

6:07AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012


1:07AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

I hope they come up with a solution soon

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