Climate Change and the Plot to Rid the World of Females!


Sexism at it’s finest? Is Climate Change actually a diabolic plot to rid the world of females? This could definitely be a great dinner conversation starter with the kids in your life. Let them know that for a tuatara (sometimes called a living fossil by scientists because their closest relatives roamed the planet with the dinosaurs) climate change and the future survival of the female tuatara and therefore the entire species, is actually a very REAL concern!

Photo Credit: Carolyn Monastra

According to the San Diego Zoo, “In the wild, tuataras breed in March, and females lay soft-shelled eggs in nesting burrows eight months later. The eggs incubate for 13 to 16 months before hatching. Like some other reptiles, such as alligators the temperature of the nest where it incubated as an egg determines a tuatara’s gender. It has been found that a difference of just one degree centigrade (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) can change the young in a clutch of eggs from all females to all males!”

Scientists are studying the turtara and other reptiles whose sex can be predetermined by temperature. According to Raymond Huey, a

Credit: Shutterstock

biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle: “Relative to the past, tuatara now have few places to hide, if anything their genetic inertia is now elevated. Moreover, they face a rate of temperature change that is unprecedented over the last 50 million years.”

The world’s population of “wild” tuatara is effectively trapped on about 30 small islands in New Zealand’s north, having been wiped out elsewhere by predators. As climate change causes temperatures on these islands to rise, the tuatara has no chance of adapting by fleeing to cooler climes, as it did in the past, researchers tell us. “Since the mid 1990s, people have been talking about the vulnerability of reptiles to climate change because they have temperature-dependent sex determination. But no one has been able to model it in this type of complexity before,” says research leader Nicola Mitchell of the University of Western Australia in Perth who is one of the scientists that has been studying the plight of the tuatara.

Special thanks to our friend Carolyn Monastra for bringing the tuatara to our attention. Many of you may know Carolyn Monastra and her Witness Tree Project. Climate Mama has been following Carolyn’s adventures around the world as she documents and photographs climate change. Check out Carolyn’s latest blog post where she shares more about her recent visit to New Zealand, and in particular concern for some of New Zealand’s mightiest glaciers, which are now retreating at an accelerated pace.

Do let us know what the kids in your life have to say about the climate change and the plot to rid the world of turtaras; grand plan or just another possible sad consequence of unchecked climate change?


Climate Mama

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2 Responses to Climate Change and the Plot to Rid the World of Females!

  1. Thanks for bringing up the effects of climate change on reptiles (and for the link to Carolyn’s post). Since I studied butterflies, I’m usually paying attention to that pollinator/plant link, but it seems there will be effects of climate change everywhere we look.

    • Harriet says:

      Carolyn is doing an incredible job “witnessing” climate change as it is happening now…! So true, there will be and already is evidence and effects of climate change all around us…

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