Scientists have long feared that green sea turtles are facing the threat of a “man drought”, as hotter sand temperatures, due to climate change, produce far more female hatchlings than males, leading to concern the population could decline.
However, drone surveys of Heron Island, in Queensland, Australia, have found there are just as many males as females turning up to mate.
The new research, published in the international journal ‘Marine Biology’ in November, is good news for the southern Great Barrier Reef population of green turtles.
“Females require huge amounts of energy to reproduce, meaning they can only breed every 5 to 7 years whereas males can breed every 2 to 3 years,” said lead author, University of Queensland PhD candidate, Melissa Staines.
“The equal number of breeding males and females was despite an estimate that female hatchlings outnumber the amount of males produced from the region.
In October 2021, during the peak of the breeding season, the research team used drones to study 38 male and 36 female turtles engaging in courtship and breeding behaviours.
In 2018, scientists revealed that for the past few decades green turtles hatching on Raine Island – about 1500 km north of Heron Island – have been more than 99 percent female, WWF said.
Video shows researchers taking part in the Heron Island turtle cooling project. Credit: WWF-Australia via Storyful