Antigua revisited: the impact of climate change on sand and nest temperatures at a hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting beach


Fiona Glen, 16, Eshton Terrace, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 1BQ, UK, e-mail:


Whether a turtle embryo develops into a male or a female depends, as with many other reptiles, on the temperature during incubation of the eggs. With sea turtles, warm temperatures produce 100% females. Therefore, global warming has the potential to drastically alter their sex ratios. Air temperatures on Antigua have increased by 0.7°C over the last 35 years. Measurements in both the sand and the clutches laid by hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) at Pasture Bay, Antigua, show that for important parts of the nesting season temperatures are already above the level producing 50% of each sex (pivotal level). Comparisons are made to sand temperature measurements taken on this beach in 1989 and 1990. It is estimated that fewer males were produced in 2003 than in the previous years. Recommendations are made for close monitoring of the fertility of eggs and for research on any turtles nesting at cooler times of year.