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Climate Change Is Turning Florida’s Sea Turtles Female. How Long Can These Species Survive?

Sawyer Wiles, 21, a biological technician in the Marine Laboratory at FAU, feeds a baby leatherback turtle a mixture of gelatin and protein.

Two dozen tiny leatherback turtles swam around in small tanks, attached by fishing lines to a system that kept them from hitting walls and hurting themselves. As an open-water species, leatherbacks don’t recognize barriers, so they are kept on leashes at Florida Atlantic University’s lab at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.

It was lunchtime and professor Jeannette Wyneken was feeding them a concoction she perfected over the years: organic gelatin, fish oil, protein and vitamins, shaped into little squares. Leatherbacks are picky eaters, feeding mostly on jellyfish.

Wyneken planned to fatten the baby turtles for a few weeks, until they are about the size of her palm and can undergo a laparoscopy to check their otherwise imperceptible gender — a process that requires inserting a tiny camera to view internal organs. Dozens of hatchlings will go through Wyneken’s lab this nesting season as part of her long-running turtle sex-ratio research in South Florida.

Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.