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Female Sea Turtle Crisis in the Great Barrier Reef

A+Green+Sea+Turtle+in+the+Great+Barrier+Reef
A Green Sea Turtle in the Great Barrier Reef

A Green Sea Turtle in the Great Barrier Reef

Getty Images

Getty Images

A Green Sea Turtle in the Great Barrier Reef

Gray Wasson, Reporter

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The Great Barrier Reef has fallen victim to major problems such as its dying coral and pollution killing marine life, but now the coral reef faces a new, more unusual issue. The Green Turtle population is becoming predominantly female and climate change may be to blame.

Thousands of turtles reside in the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, but that may change in the near future since now over 99% of all turtles born are female. The reason for this strange complication appears to be climate change. The gender of newborn turtles are dependent on the temperature in which the eggs incubate, so with higher temperatures the chances of the turtles being born female have risen dramatically.

With the female-to-male ratio becoming more and more unbalanced, the population of the sea creatures will see a major plummet. The species’ only solace may be the cooler waters in southern shores. Here, the turtles’ male to female population is not nearly as unstable as the north shores, since only 65% are female.

Unfortunately, this savior will be short lived, as before 2100 global temperatures will increase by 4.7°F, meaning that it will not matter which shore the turtles incubate in and male-born turtles will become rarer.

Scientists have proposed the idea of humans intervening and incubating turtle eggs in controlled environments to help bring balance between the male and female populations. Biologists have been aware of the Green Turtle gender switch for many decades, but it wasn’t until late 2017 when they realized how skewed the population had become.

“It’s necessary for scientists to step in and do what they can since the changes are based on human impacts on the climate,” explains SHS biology teacher Ms. Condon. “If it’s something that we have done to potentially impact what’s happening with these species, then it’s also our responsibility to step in and try to help them the best that we can.”

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Green Turtle Hatchling at the Sea Turtle Hatchery in Habaraduwa, Sri Lanka

Although the crisis is most severe in Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, this is not the only location where the problem is occurring. For example, Habaraduwa Sea Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka is already helping the species by hatching and raising the turtles before they are released into the wild.

The Green Sea Turtles have been considered endangered since 1978 and the species is already victim to poaching, pollution, hunting, disease, and habitat loss, so this female hatching crisis may be the final jab, throwing the species from the endangered list to the extinct.

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Female Sea Turtle Crisis in the Great Barrier Reef