Professor: alligators dealing with gender issues
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 23:09
Students in a packed conference room in the Biological and Natural Resources building sat anxiously awaiting Louis J. Guillette Jr. to speak about gender issues — alligator gender issues.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24 USU hosted Guillette, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Holling Marine Biology, for an informational session about the growing gender issues alligators are dealing with. He’s done extensive studies with alligators and other reptiles all over the world, from Florida to Africa.
Most of his research has been with animals in the Lake Woodruff and Lake Apopka areas in Florida.
“This is not an alligator story in Lake Apopka,” Guillette said. “This is a lot broader issue. This is a human issue.”
His message about the human effect on the environment and its negative impact on alligators and other animals, including human beings, was not only informative but entertaining.
The presentation focused on the harmful pollution in these lakes and the effects it has on the genders of alligators. According to his research there are massive amounts of chemicals finding their way into the yoke of alligator eggs. This gives female alligators too much estrogen, causing a “super female” to develop. Male alligators are also impacted and develop smaller genitalia.
Data collected by Guillette indicates that environmental contaminants cause sex reversal. This reversal is hindering the natural evolutionary progression of the american alligator, Guillette said.
Harmful chemicals in the alligator embryo also coincide with other recent research about human fetuses. Shampoo, hairspray and hand lotion are common products containing the same poisoning chemicals that affect humans.
In the human research Guillette does, he is able to look at ultrasounds and measure a baby's penis size and trace back the chemical cause of shorter and misshapen genitalia.
“We now know the environment plays a crucial role in DNA formation,” Guillette said. “If you don’t understand normal, you will never understand abnormal.”