ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION: Sex on the Beach

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Science  08 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5792, pp. 1364a
DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5792.1364a

For many reptiles, the temperature at which their eggs are incubated determines the sex of the hatchling. In a world affected by global climate change and localized anthropogenic pressures, temperature-dependent sex determination can have all-or-none consequences for sex ratios and hence population viability. Kamel and Mrosovsky document a graphic example of this peril, in the case of the hawksbill turtle in the Caribbean. Like other marine turtles, hawksbills lay their eggs above the high tide mark on beaches. Where the beach is shaded by its natural forest cover, cooler incubation temperatures lead to a more male-biased sex ratio. However, such male-producing sites are increasingly scarce as more of the coastlines of Caribbean islands are deforested and developed for tourism, and there is evidence that the hawksbill population is becoming more female-biased. — AMS

Ecol. Appl. 16, 923 (2006).

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