California tortoises died trying to reproduce during drought
California tortoises died trying to reproduce during drought.
Scientists examining the deaths of female desert tortoises in Southern California said it appears the animals died while exhausting their water and energy to lay eggs during California’s historic drought.
Researchers want to know why female tortoises are dying in greater numbers than males in the Joshua Tree National Park.
U.S. Geological Survey biologist Jeffrey Lovich said he believes the tortoises died during a desperate attempt to fight extinction.
"They’ll do it during a drought, when they can’t find the water they need, to have a chance to win at the game of life."
A team led by Lovich was surveying a study area of several square miles when it discovered the remains of 14 female and three male tortoises — and 15 live animals, most of them males.
But Lovich said the risk to tortoises could remain throughout desert areas as temperatures rise and forage diminishes because of global climate change.
Over the past three decades, Joshua Tree’s tortoise population has plummeted from about 30,000 to an all-time low of roughly 3,000.
Desert tortoises are a threatened species that typically have 50-year lifespans in the wild, with some living 80 years.
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