Dead turtle hatchlings at Mon Repos beach in Australia in February 2017, killed by extreme heat. The exact number of deaths is not known at this stage, but it could be in the hundreds. Photo: Jess Lodge / ABC Wide Bay

By Jess Lodge
4 January 2017

(ABC News) – Piles of dead turtle hatchlings are lining Queensland's famous Mon Repos beach amid a heatwave which has pushed the sand's temperature to a record 75 degrees Celsius.

While the majority of hatchlings break free from their nests at night when the sand is cooler, those escaping in the day face overheating.

"They can't sweat, they can't pant, so they've got no mechanism for cooling," Department of Environment and Heritage Protection chief scientist Dr Col Limpus said.

"If they encounter very hot sand they just simply heat up.

"They slow down and that's the end for them.

"You really only have probably an hour or so in those really hot sands and it's terminal."

The extreme heat is also conducted down to the turtle's nest, pushing the temperature to about 34C, which is approaching the lethal level for incubation.

That is the hottest temperature recorded in a nest in more than a decade.

"We've got an increased mortality … that we haven't been seeing in years," Dr Limpus said.

The average hatchling survival rate is 85 per cent but due to the heat it is likely to be a lot lower this year.

The exact number of turtle deaths is not known at this stage, but hundreds have been seen dead on the beach.

The 1.6-kilometre Mon Repos beach is the most important breeding site for Loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific. [more]

Turtle hatchlings dying in extreme heat at Mon Repos

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