Oh No! Turtles in ‘Horrible Shape’ say Scientists

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, approximately 60% of the world’s turtle species are considered threatened or endangered, with tough prospects for survival, making them one of the most vulnerable groups of animals on the planet.

“Turtles are in horrible shape.  There aren’t very many species of turtles and tortoises to begin with, so we don’t have many to lose.”

-Dr. Brad Shaffer, UCLA conservation geneticist and senior author of the study

Factors Threatening the Survival of Turtles

Human hunting of turtles for food and traditional medicine is by far the biggest current factor in their threatened status. But according to the study, rising sea levels driven by climate change will be a much bigger problem in coming years and decades.  Additionally, coastal and waterfront areas are among the regions that have been most heavily developed and exploited by humans. As a result, species like the salt marsh specialist, the diamondback terrapin, and map turtles — which have speciated in the coastal rivers of the eastern United States that drain into the Gulf of Mexico — have also become endangered.

Journal Reference: Robert C. ThomsonPhillip Q. Spinks, and H. Bradley Shaffer. A global phylogeny of turtles reveals a burst of climate-associated diversification on continental margins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (