If only sea turtles could talk. They wouldn’t freeze, mumble or stumble, but I’m sure they’d grumble about the heat we humans cause with our carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.
While it’s shaping up to be a record-breaking year for sea turtle nests on the South Florida coast, let’s hope a large percentage of males haven’t perished in this oppressive heat. Yes, guy turtles are more at risk.
While we can thank conservation efforts like lighting regulations and nest monitoring for playing an important role in their reproductive life, researchers are trying to get their heads around the next challenge to now perhaps a much more endangered species, thanks to unceasingly rising temperatures on this now oven planet we call earth.
NPR News station WLRN’s Yvonne zum Tobel talked to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center conservationist David Anderson about the peril male turtles might be in these days in broiling sunny South Florida
From March to October, Anderson and his crew survey nesting and hatching activity for green, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles along a five-mile stretch of beach in front of where I live in right now perspiring Boca Raton.
Anderson says it’s been a great year for sea turtles whose bedrooms are marked with orange wooden stakes spread across the beach embedded with an estimated 1,300 nests.
Once in a while I see members of the sea turtle beach patrol stick a hand down into the nesting hole far enough to rescue any that are near the surface because hatchlings close to the surface tend to perish in this blistering heat.
Why is the sand temperature so important to baby sea turtles? It not only determines when they hatch, but what gender they’ll be. Sorry Gov. DeSantis, if I’m in any public schools, I promise I won’t mention gender.
Wanting to know more about the effect of heat on baby sea turtles, Anderson and his colleagues work with Florida Atlantic University Marine Lab to where they bring hatchlings they’ve collected in a research cage inserted into nests.
These hatchlings are taken back to the FAU marine lab where their sex will be determined after two-month incubation.
Researchers at the FAU Marine Lab, which has been conducting a sex-ratio study for the past 20 years, like to say “hot chicks” and “cool dudes.” So warmer sand means usually more females in the nest, and cooler temperatures around the nest means more males.
Last year’s numbers show 12 to 30% were males depending on the turtle species, which is still OK because females mate with multiple partners and can store sperm. Please, no books about this in school libraries, right Gov? Still, researchers want to get their brains around what impact a warming planet could have on the male population. I call it cool research.
Speaking of cool, it seems the only time it’s cool this summer is when there’s a hurricane? Some choice, huh? Oh well, that’s life as they say, in sunny money Florida.
So far, NPR News reports this year the number of eggs simply hatching is high which is a good sign since only about 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles makes it to adulthood, which takes about 20 years.
Tom Madden definitely reached adulthood some years ago, but now is doing his utmost to look and feel younger and fit as a fiddle, which his concert violinist dad, William Madden, once played at Carnegie Hall. He does it by walking a couple miles on the sea-turtle sanctuary beach in front of his condo, The Chalfonte, in Boca Raton every day with his beautiful Brazilian wife Rita. Madden is an author of five books, a blogger at www.maddenmischief.com and the CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning PR firm he founded when he left NBC. His latest book WORDSHINE MAN will be featured on The Authors Show on Labor Day, Sept. 4.