The sex of many reptiles is known to be affected by temperature. New research in the journal Genetics identifies the first gene associated with temperature-dependent sex determination in any reptile. In addition, variations or mutations at this gene contributes to geographic differences in sex ratios by temperature. In certain reptile species, temperature of an embryo can change if the sex of the embryo. An issue occurs however with the quick climate change. For example, since global warming, many species such as the painted turtle will only be able to produce one type of offspring. This could potentially wipe out a species all together.
Since very little is known of temperature-dependent switch between ovaries and testes is regulated, research from the University of North Dakota used common snapping turtles to learn more on the subject. In previous work the team identified that the male producing temperature is around 26.6 degrees Celsius while female producing temperature is around 31 degrees celcius. The researchers then located the gene CIRBP which is activated within 24 hours of such a temperature shift. The study confirmed the CIRBP is expressed at the right time and in the right place to be involved in sex specification. Next researchers found snapping turtles from different climates and found that they had different ratios in the sex determination when incubated at the same temperature. Therefore, the team concludes that variation must account for the change in sex ratios. However, researchers believe that CIRBP is not the only important gene is specifying the sex of reptiles, more specifically snapping turtles. More research needs to be done in order to provide more information on this sex regulation gene or genes.