New Study Reveals How Temperature Impacts Leatherback Sea Turtle Hatchlings

In a ground-breaking study, researchers from Florida Atlantic University have unveiled the significant influence of temperature on the reproductive success of leatherback sea turtles, indicating how climate change is a major threat for this particular species and highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect these vulnerable creatures in the face of climate change.

Nest temperature was found to play a pivotal role in determining the physical characteristics of hatchlings, like body length and depth, as well as flipper length. Higher temperatures in the nest produced hatchlings with thicker body depths and shorter flippers, which struggled to right themselves when placed on their backs. Researchers observed that hatching and emergence success correlated with temperature as mid-season nests experienced the highest success rates, with hotter nests leading to shorter incubation periods and reduced yolk mass conversion to body tissue growth. Surprisingly, the study found no significant correlation between incubation temperature and crawling speed.

Compared to loggerhead and green sea turtles, leatherback turtle nests, in the study, exhibited lower hatching success, underscoring the species’ vulnerability to environmental conditions. This research highlighted the looming threat of climate change to this species calling attention to the urgent need for effective conservation efforts to protect them.

Published in the journal Endangered Species Research, the study monitored 13 leatherback turtle nests along the coastline in Juno Beach, Florida, spanning various nesting seasons. The scientists explored the relationship between nest incubation temperatures and crucial aspects of hatchling development and success. Study co-author is Heather A. Seaman, an FAU graduate student pursuing her Ph.D., under Milton’s direction in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Via Science Daily (