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Monogamous Sea Turtles?


One of the theories that has long swirled about in the scientific community is that female sea turtles may mate with multiple male sea turtles for “fertilization insurance.”  Leave it to Sanibel Island females to add a little mystery into the mix!

A recent study from Florida Atlantic University, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, provides insight into the relative numbers of males present in the breeding population; measures that are hard to obtain because males never come ashore.

The researchers studied nesting loggerhead female sea turtles in 2016 and used genotyping to uncover how many fathers were represented in their nests.  Surprisingly, scientists found that most of the Sanibel Island female sea turtles analyzed for their study were monogamous — more than 75 percent of the females had mated singly.  No male was represented in more than one female’s clutches.

Scientists hope that the study will help shed light on the fate of male sea turtles, a population that has been noticeably diminishing due to the effects of climate change.  Temperature of the sand determines whether sea turtles are born male or female, and experts are saying that the trend of male hatchlings declining continues with recent record-breaking temperatures.



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