Over the past 320,000 years, turtles in North America have survived through numerous fluctuations in global temperature. When the temperature dropped, they moved to a warmer climate and if it started to get too hot, they headed North. While some turtle species were unable to make the move, the successful species migrated an average of 45 miles for each degree of temperature change.
Today’s turtles may not have that option.
Researchers working with the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBios) at the University of Tennessee say the dramatic nature of current global change may prove to be too quick for modern turtles to adapt. In addition, changes in water management and habitat mean they have fewer places to go.
Fossil records, turtle physiology and genetic data helped NIMBios researchers track the migration of turtle populations over the last 320 millenia. During that time, the earth experienced three glacial-interglacial cycles and significant temperature changes.