Apr 9, 2020

Climate change and green sea turtle sex ratio - Preventing possible extinction

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jana BlechschmidtM. J. Wittmann


Climate change poses a threat to species with temperature-dependent sex determination. A recent study on green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) at the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) showed a highly female-skewed sex ratio with almost all juvenile turtles being female. This shortage of males might eventually cause population extinction, unless rapid evolutionary rescue, migration or conservation efforts ensure a sufficient number of males. We built a stochastic individual-based model inspired by C. mydas, but potentially transferrable to other species with TSD. Nest depth, level of shade, and pivotal temperature were evolvable traits. Additionally, we considered the effect of crossbreeding between the northern and southern GBR, nest-site philopatry, and conservation efforts. Among the evolvable traits, nest depth was the most likely to rescue the population in the face of climate change, but even here the more extreme climate-change scenario led to extinction. Surprisingly, nest-site philopatry elevated extinction rates. Conservation efforts to artificially increase nest depth promoted population survival and did not preclude trait evolution. Although extra information is needed to make reliable predictions for the fate of green ...Continue Reading

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