Climate change, like all things in life, consists of some stuff we are relatively certain about, like the fact that the last decade was the hottest on record, and other stuff that we are still discovering, like the influence of the melted Arctic on weather in the Northern Hemisphere.
As a scientist, it’s my job to try and expand our collective understanding of how the world works. To accomplish this lofty goal, I conducted a study of 46 female painted turtles.
I chose such a mundane animal because of one specific aspect of its biology: temperature-dependent sex determination, or TSD. When TSD eggs develop in cool temperatures, they become the “cooler” sex — that is, male — while higher temperatures lead to the “warmer” female sex.
With that in mind, I wondered: Would painted turtles, who depend on a stable mix of warm and cold weather for a stable mix of male and females, find a way to adapt to these warmer temperatures?
For this experiment, I observed 46 female painted turtles constructing their nests along the Mississippi River. I carefully changed the depth of each nest to test the hypothesis that deeper nests would be cooler a... Read more