Hot sand means that Florida sea turtles don’t need to have gender-reveal parties – they’re all hatching as females.
With most species of turtle, along with alligators and crocodiles, the sex of their offspring is determined by the egg’s temperature during incubation.
The National Ocean Service states that, below 81.86 degrees Fahrenheit, sea turtle eggs hatch as males. When eggs hatch at 88.8 degrees Fahrenheit or above, they will hatch as females. Within that range, eggs hatch with a mix of both sexes.
Heat waves in Florida have tipped the scales firmly towards female turtles, causing an ever-more acute sex imbalance.
Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys, noted that the past four summers have broken heat records in the state, and that “scientists that are studying sea turtle hatchlings and eggs have found no boy sea turtles … for the past four years.”
Without males being born and surviving to adulthood, the survival of the species is in jeopardy.
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Melissa Rodriguez, a turtle keeper at the Miami Zoo, told Reuters that “We don’t have the male-to-female ratio needed in order to be able to have successful breeding sessions.”
Mrs. Rodriguez also said that this trend will cause a sharp decline in sea turtle populations, already endangered by predators, plastic pollutants and disease.