Climate change and reptile sex

  • © platycryptus @

    © platycryptus @

    A recent study on turtle behaviour in response to temperature change has resulted in concern for the future of the North American painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Soil temperature determines the sex of the turtle species, as is the case for a number of other types of reptile, influencing the sex ratio of the population. It is predicted that a temperature increase of 1°C will result in 100% of painted turtles being born female thus threatening survival of the species.

  • The study showed that female turtles can alter their behaviour by laying eggs earlier or later in the season, but it has been suggested that this change will not be enough to save the species.
  • There have been instances of using the effect of temperature to manipulate the sex of endangered reptile species in captivity for conservation purposes, such as the tuatara in New Zealand.

The UK contains a number of lizard and snake species that are classified as endangered. A warming climate may place pressure on these already struggling populations and may tip the number of other reptile species into the endangered zone, re-enforcing the role of the Climate Change Act 2008 in combatting global warming.

About annaarathe

Research fellow, horizon scanning
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