Sand temperature profiles at turtle nesting sites in the Red Sea: implications for hatchling sex ratios

  • Lyndsey K. Tanabe

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

Climate change poses a serious threat to species that demonstrate temperature dependent sex determination (TDS), including marine turtles. Increased temperatures can result in highly female skewed sex ratios and decreased hatchling success. In situ sand temperature data was collected from the nesting depth of hawksbill and green turtles at five study sites along the coast of the Red Sea. The sand temperature profile at four of the sites exceeded the pivotal temperature of 29.2°C (commonly cited in literature) throughout the study duration, which suggests feminization of turtles could be occurring, but further studies need to identify the pivotal temperature in this region. The percentage of days exceeding the commonly cited maximum thermal threshold (33 and 35°C) was calculated for each site at 30 and 50 cm. Sand temperature recordings were as high as 36.0°C at 30 cm depth, and 35.3°C at 50 cm. This suggests that the turtle hatchlings in some areas of the Red Sea could already have high mortality rates due to high temperatures, unless they are locally adapted to these high temperatures. The Red Sea is home to five out of the seven extant species of marine turtles in the world, but not much is known about these populations. The Red Sea is an understudied region of the world, but it has the potential to provide insight on how species might adapt to future climate change due to its high and variable water temperatures (range of 20°C to 35°C) and high salinity (40 PSU). Sites with lower sand temperatures (and lower risk of feminization) may represent priority areas for conservation efforts, particularly in regions facing imminent coastal development.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Science and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Temperature-dependent Sex
  • Red Sea marine turtles
  • Climate change
  • Turtle nesting

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