BOCA RATON, Fla. - Jeanette Wyneken, a professor at Florida Atlantic University says our sea turtle population could soon be in trouble - and climate change is likely to blame.
The issue starts in the nesting stage.
“That egg, when it goes into the nest, has no gender,” Wyneken says. “It's the incubation environment that directs it to be male or female. Warmer temperatures produce females, cooler temperatures produce males.”
A recent national study from research journal 'Current Biology' is sounding the alarm - saying warmer temperatures are giving birth to turtle populations that are almost entirely female.
Scientists at FAU's Research Lab at Gumbo Limbo have been crunching the numbers locally.
“We estimate that over the past 10 years, 95 percent of all the turtles that hatched in South Florida have been female,” researcher Boris Teeza says.
“These are the animals that will become the teenagers, who will become the adults,” Wyneken says.
However, Wyneken says there could be major issues if there aren't enough males to mate with the increasing number of females.
“The long term concern is definitely that turtle populations could be increasingly imperiled."
Because of the large gap between birth and maturity for turtles, scientists say it could be decades before we see the impact.
Wyneken says we shouldn't sit back and wait to find out.
“It takes a village, it takes all of us recognizing that we have to be part of the solution.”
FAU researchers say there's still a lot of data yet to be gathered on the male to female ratios.
If the trend continues going in this direction, they may have to step in and do things like physically cool off nests to ensure a higher male population.