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Some turtle embryos can influence their own sex, study finds

02 / 08 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

The sex of some turtle species is influenced not by genes but by the temperatures they experience in the nest. Eggs incubated at cooler temperatures develop into males, while those that face warmer temperatures turn out to be females. When temperatures fluctuate between cool and warm, the eggs produce a mix of male and female babies. The Chinese three-keeled pond turtle (also called the Chinese pond turtle) is one such species. But its embryos seem to have some control over their own sexual fate, according to a new study. The embryos can move inside the eggs toward cooler or hotter spots, researchers have found, influencing their own sex to some extent. This is good news because it means that, at least in theory, the turtles might be able to buffer some of the predicted shifts in sex ratio because of climate change. Since hotter temperatures produce only female babies, rising temperatures due to climate change could end up creating populations of mostly female turtles, scientists say, leading to population declines. “Our research shows that a reptile embryo is not just a passive victim of global warming, but may control their own sex fate to some degree,” Du Wei-Guo, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and corresponding author of the study, told Mongabay. A turtle embryo. Image by Ye et al./Current Biology. In previous research, Du and his colleagues had shown that embryos of the freshwater Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii), an endangered species, move inside eggs in response…

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