Assessing the evidence of 'infertile' sea turtle eggs

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© 2020, Inter-Research. There is increasing concern about feminization of sea turtle populations resulting from female-biased production of hatchlings due to climate change and selective loss of males from other anthropogenic drivers. Extreme female-biased breeding populations would reduce the likelihood of successful mating and potentially result in high rates of infertile eggs. Infertile eggs are those in which none of the events between sperm penetration of the ovum and syngamy have occurred. Distinguishing between fertile and infertile eggs is challenging, especially in field conditions, and researchers often have relied on physical evidence gathered from unhatched eggs at the end of the incubation period, which likely have experienced tissue decomposition. We argue that infertility in sea turtle eggs can be demonstrated only by the absence of holes caused by sperm penetration of the inner perivitelline membrane; sperm bound between the inner and outer perivitelline membranes; nuclei in the blastodisc; embryonic tissue or membranes in egg contents; and/or the characteristic white spot on the egg exterior. Unhatched eggs can be examined at the end of the incubation period, but we recommend that studies specifically investigating infertility examine at least 20 oviposited eggs each from clutches laid by at least 20 different turtles at the peak of the nesting season.






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Phillott, AD, and MH Godfrey (2020). Assessing the evidence of 'infertile' sea turtle eggs. Endangered Species Research, 41. pp. 329–338. 10.3354/ESR01032 Retrieved from

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