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Rising Temperatures Put Sea Turtles At Risk

1190 words - 5 pages

Rising Temperatures Put Sea Turtles at Risk
Sea turtles are said to be one of Earth’s most ancient creatures and the seven species that can be found today have been around for roughly 110 million years, which dates back to when dinosaurs ruled the planet. Their unique shell allows for easy movement through the water and unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their shells (“Sea Turtle Migration”, 2013). Depending on the species of sea turtle, their diet tends to consist of smaller sea life such as jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails and algae. It is also interesting to note that green sea turtles can stay under water for as long as five hours ...view middle of the document...

“In order to maintain a viable breeding population, a cool, male-producing year has to come at least once every five to ten years, if male years begin to come only every twenty years because of climate change, the sea turtle could become extinct”, says Spotila (2013), a professor of environmental science at Drexel University.
Sea turtles are known to imprint on the beach where they hatch and later return to that site decades later to repeat their ancient nesting ritual. With rising temperatures comes melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels, causing these beaches to slowly disappear (“Sea Turtle Migration”, 2013). Genetic studies of sea turtle colonies suggest that sea turtles will not be able to adapt to rapidly rising tides, it may take ten thousand years for new turtle nesting sites to become established (“Sea Turtle Migration”, 2013). Global warming will also increase water temperatures, changing the ocean currents that are critical to migrating turtles, especially baby hatchlings that are mostly transported by the currents into the open ocean (“Sea Turtle Migration”, 2013). Sea turtles are found in all warm and temperate waters throughout the world and tend to migrate hundreds of miles between nesting and feeding grounds. Most sea turtles undergo long migrations, some as far as fourteen thousand miles, between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest (“Sea Turtle Migration”, 2013). Leatherback sea turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on earth, traveling as many as ten thousand miles or more each year in search of jellyfish (“Sea Turtles”, 2013). Adult feeding patterns are affected by the climate change in such a way that grass beds are in decline, water temperature is higher on intertidal sea grass flats and coral reefs, typically feeding grounds for green turtles, are affected by bleaching (“Sea Turtles”, 2013). Not only does most of the marine life depend on coral reefs, but humans depend on them too. Corals support the fish eaten by over a billion people worldwide (“Sea Turtles”, 2013).
Warmer water temperatures brought on by climate change ultimately stresses corals because they are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature which ultimately has a direct effect on turtle feeding grounds. If water temperatures stay higher than usual for many weeks, the zooxanthellae they depend on for some of their food leave their tissue (“Coral Reefs”, 2013). Zooxanthellae are organisms that are most often found as plankton which provide food as products of photosynthesis to reef building coral; they also give corals their color (“Coral Reefs”, 2013). When zooxanthellae are missing the...

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