Males don’t stand a chance in a warmer world, if they happen to be painted turtles. A temperature rise of around 1 °C is all it would take for the species to become 100 per cent female and earmarked for extinction.
Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), found in lakes and streams across North America, are one of many reptile species whose sex is determined by temperature. Eggs in warm nests are likely to hatch as females, while males hatch in cooler nests, although no one is sure why.
In recent years, many researchers have raised concerns that global warming could skew the sex ratios of these reptiles. Rory Telemeco and his colleagues at Iowa State University developed a mathematical model to predict whether the painted turtles might be affected.
For over 25 years, Telemeco’s colleague, Fredric Janzen, documented the nesting times and sex ratio of painted turtle hatchlings on a small island in the Mississippi river in Carroll County, Illinois. He found that females can shift their nesting dates by about 10 days to ensure their eggs develop at temperatures that produce an even mix of males and females.
The team used this finding, along with historical records of soil and air temperatures, to create a mathematical model that predicts the sex ratio of eggs laid at different temperatures. In a preliminary test of the model, the group correctly predicted the sexes of 40 out of 46 hatchlings born in the wild.
Telemeco’s team then used the same model to predict what might happen to the sex ratio of future hatchlings. Conservative climate models predict that average temperatures in the US Midwest will rise by 4 °C over the next century. The group’s model suggests that this temperature hike would result in nests of all-female hatchlings, even if the turtles nest earlier, when temperatures are cooler. In fact, average temperatures only need to rise by 1.1 °C to have this effect, the team found. “It’s ultimately extinction,” says Telemeco.
Richard Shine, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who was not involved in the study, says the findings are likely to apply to many species where sex is dependent on temperature. “All crocodilians, a smattering of turtles and lizards, plus some fishes”, will be affected, he says. “Just laying your eggs a few weeks earlier won’t be enough to cancel the effects of warming,” he says.
On April 4, teachers and fifty-eight 7th graders from Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School traded their brick and mortar classrooms for the vibrant landscape of southern Utah. The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) was one of the chosen venues for the “Day in the Desert” event, sponsored by the Washington County School District, which allows middle school students to participate in “hands on” activities.
In the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, located within the NCA, specialists from the BLM Saint George Field Office, Washington County Administrators Office, and Southern Utah National Conservation Lands Friends (SUNCLF) group instructed students on ecological and cultural resources with curriculum-based workshops. They educated students about the life histories and adaptive mechanisms of native Mojave Desert species, like the desert tortoise and Gila monster; sampled and tested water quality in Quail Creek, and tried their hand at flint-knapping.
They also identified native plants that were used as foods, medicines, or fiber sources by Native Americans and Anglo-European settlers, and visited the mid-19th century Orson B. Adams farmstead.
At the end of the day, “Day in the Desert” was a success with the children excitedly chatting about their experience on Public Lands as they marched back to the school bus.
-Story by Iris Picat; Photos by Iris Picat and Melissa Buchman
MyPublicLands is such a great tumblr to follow - it’s run by the Bureau of Land Management! And check out that old-timer desert tortoise!!
New York hotelier, Eric Goode, was featured on “60 Minutes” to discuss his non-profit, The Turtle Conservancy. The organization works to conserve turtles and tortoises endangered by aggressive development, poverty, and illegal trade to China.
“A butterfly perches on the head of an Amazon River Turtle. Photographer Nate Chappell spotted the cheeky insect hitching a ride near the Amazon River in Ecuador. He explains: “I was standing in the open air lounge at Sani Lodge ecolodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle when I noticed a butterfly perched on the head of this Amazon River Turtle. I scrambled down to the river bank to try and photograph it. At first the butterfly flitted off as I startled it but it soon returned to sit on the turtle’s head. The butterfly is of the genus Oleria and it’s believed that the butterflies take salts and minerals from the head and eyes of the turtles. The turtles let this go on, so they probably get some benefit from it as well.”“
portugalstew asked: I wonder if one factor contributing to people being shitty to turtles is the fact that the study took place in South Carolina. Having lived here almost my entire life, I can safely confirm that South Carolinians are über shitty. I was in the car with some guy who actually fussed that a road construction crew placed a light tar paper partition between the fresh asphalt and a drainage ditch, because "those stupid liberals want to save the fish or some bullshit".
I feel you! Sadly it happens up here, too. Every once in a while, some kids are caught blowing up snapping turtles with fire crackers.
Actually, there are simple and cheap ways you can help turtles cross: just ask your mayor or town council to make a turtle crossing. Send a passionate email or write a letter (just friggin do it). Probably takes less time to do than read this tumblr post!
There are two basic designs - a sign (this one is in Maine), which is cheap and doesn’t piss off tax payers. Or a tunnel under a road, which is expensive and really, really pisses off tax payers (it’s turtles vs new teachers/police/road repairs! Aah!).
I suggest adding a fine for any driver caught intentionally swerving to kill an animal. Hard to enforce and catch people, so a very high fine could act as a deterrent rather than a revenue generator for the municipality.
A student at Clemson experiments with turtles crossing the road. If you’re American, the experiment went just as expected…
College student’s turtle project takes dark twist
Clemson University student Nathan Weaver set out to determine how to help turtles cross the road. He ended up getting a glimpse into the dark souls of some humans.
Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.
“I’ve heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking,” said Weaver, a 22-year-old senior in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.
To seasoned researchers, the practice wasn’t surprising.
The number of box turtles is in slow decline, and one big reason is that many wind up as roadkill while crossing the asphalt, a slow-and-steady trip that can take several minutes.
Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless creature under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.
“They aren’t thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time,” Herzog said. “It is the dark side of human nature.”
A Filipino wildlife official shows seized elephant tusks and dried sea turtles estimated to be worth more than $2m from a shipment that came from Tanzania in 2009. The Philippines has launched an investigation into the alleged involvement of Catholic priests in the illegal trade of African ivory in the country, officials said. Elephant tusks are commonly used in the manufacture of statues, figurines and image replicas of saints | image by Dennis M. Sabangan
Signal boost! Click/vote to help my favorite conservation organization win a $29,000 prize to help protect a special endangered tortoise.
Come on! Help these good folks out!Click and vote! Takes 3 seconds.This is a contest to help in-need conservation organization. This is not a request for a donation! Everybody loves pandas and dolphins, which means other species don’t receive the level of financial assistance needed for good conservation programs. That’s why they need your help. Pandas get all the cash, but what about the turts!?
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) really needs your vote. The winning prize money will help save the Radiated Tortoise, one of the most beautiful turtles in the world. You. Love. Turtles!
These pretty lil’ guys are from Madagascar and traded illegally as pets. The TSA works with locals to help stop this trade, but it’s an uphill battle because country folks can make a lot of money shipping babies to places like China and the U.S. for pets.
Just click and vote. Select Category B #3 Radiated Tortoise and reblog! Let’s go! Do it for the turtles!
As each turtle nests at Fuwairat the site is marked by the rangers with a small flag. In July, the first of the hatchlings will emerge from the hot sand and scurry down to the water. Once there they swim for a couple of days in a ‘swimming frenzy’ to get well offshore. Then they will spend several years drifting in the oceanic currents, gradually migrating towards their feeding areas. And hopefully, thanks to the efforts of Qatar’s dedicated conservation teams, one day they’ll be back.
Loggerhead turtles are tagged with new transmitters that will grow with the shell, leading to better data sets. The lead scientist of the project, Katherine Mansfield, published a great little paper describing her technique. Little is known about the first stages of young turtle life and these tags help fill a major gap in scientific knowledge.
Also, there’s a fantastic website that tracts some ocean animals, such as sharks and turtles called “Tagging of Pacific Predators” (TOPP). It’s run by a group of ocean scientists interested in better species management. Click here for more on tagging.
UPDATE: What’s the climate connection? Simply put, species will move around as temperatures change. Tropical snakes and birds, for example, are expected to move north and south, as the tropical band widens. Others, such as the polar bear and many cold weather species, don’t really have many places to go. Also, food sources probably will not follow their predators (and vice verse).
Question from A Budding Scientist:
What do tagged animals tell us about the ocean? And when you get this information, what do you do with it? How is it used?
The tracks and the way they move around the ocean tells us where the important regions are. That is places where the animals look for food. The tags on the animals also provide us with information of the temperature of the water over the range the animals dive through. These data are important in understanding climate change and other climate related oceanic processes. Here.
Rescue Planned for World’s Most Endangered Turtles
“The Wildlife Conservation Society today announced that it would “take direct responsibility” for the survival of some of the world’s most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles.
So many of these animals are being collected, traded, eaten and used for medicine that they are being pushed into extinction. In addition, their habitats are being fragmented, destroyed, developed, and polluted.
Based at New York’s Bronx Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society has developed a new strategy to prevent the extinction of at least half of the species in a 2011 report by WCS and other groups that lists the world’s 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises”
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change. "Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt." - John Updike
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