Record summer heatwave means 99% of sea turtles being born now are female

Hardly any male sea turtles are being born in Florida after the summer's record-breaking heatwave.

Unprecedented weather has caused the southern American state's sandy beaches to get so hot that turtle eggs are not cool enough to fertilise males.

Bette Zirkelbach, the manager of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida Keys, says climate change has made a problem with gender imbalance among the reptiles even worse.

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The situation at the centre, which first opened in 1986, is now so bad that staff have not found male turtle hatchlings for four years.

Bette said: "The frightening thing is the last four summers in Florida have been the hottest summers on record.

"Scientists that are studying sea turtle hatchlings and eggs have found no boy sea turtles, so only female sea turtles for the past four years."

According to the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the external temperature of an egg determines whether the turtle inside hatches a male or female.

Incubating below 27.7C, the turtle hatchlings will be male but above 31C, they will be female, NOAA states..

Turtle Hospital manager Bette pointed out that Australia was experiencing the same issue where "99% of new sea turtle babies are female".

Even zoos have been affected, said Melissa Rosales Rodriguez, a sea turtle keeper at Miami Zoo's turtle hospital.

She said: "Over the years, you're going to see a sharp decline in their population because we just don't have the genetic diversity. We don't have the male-to-female ratio needed in order to be able to have successful breeding sessions."

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Adding to the respective turtle hospital woes is a contagious tumour spreading between turtles, known as fibropapillomatosis (FP) which can prove deadly if not treated.

The worrying combination of climate change stopping males being born and FP becoming widespread has left Bette desperate to save as many turtles as possible.

She said: "The Turtle Hospital was the first. But, sadly and fortunately, there's a need all throughout Florida."


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