Thane Wibbels

Professor, Reproductive Biology

Contact

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(205) 934-4419
(205) 975-6097

Ph.D. (Zoology), 1988, Texas A&M University


Research Description:

My research interests center on the biology and conservation of reptiles with an emphasis on temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD).The research that my students and I are conducting is multidisciplinary and includes field research with conservation programs for marine turtles, as well as laboratory studies on the molecular physiology underlying TSD.


In regards to marine turtle conservation, we work with sea turtles and with the diamondback terrapin, a turtle that inhabits bays and salt marshes. We are currently studying the biology of the diamondback terrapin and developing a recovery strategy for this depleted species in Alabama. This includes the evaluation of a head start program for the terrapin. We are also collaborating with a variety of state, federal, and international agencies on conservation programs for sea turtles. In these studies we are generating long-term databases for nesting beach temperatures that affect TSD, and we are evaluating hatchling sex ratios resulting from TSD. This includes studies of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Mexico and the loggerhead sea turtle in the southeastern U.S. We are also evaluating optimal methods for assuring the survival of hatchlings on the main nesting beach of the Kemp’s ridley at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.

Our physiological studies focus on TSD, in which the sex of many reptiles is determined by the temperature at which the egg is incubated. TSD provides several advantages not available in other vertebrate sex determination systems, including the ability to manipulate sex by both temperature and steroid hormones. We are using the slider turtle as a model system for elucidating the physiology underlying sex determination and gonadal differentiation. We are using this system to pursue putative genes which control these events in sexual development. The results have implications for both the biology and conservation of reptiles.



Representative Publications:

LeBlanc, AM and Wibbels T. (2009) . Effects of daily water treatments on sex determination in the red-eared slider turtle. Journal of Experimental Zoology (In press, 311A: 67-72.)


Dodd, K. and Wibbels, T. (2008) . Estrogen inhibits caudal progression, but stimuates proliferation of the mullerian ducts in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A.. 150: 315-319.


Shaver, D. and Wibbels T. (2008) Headstarting Ridley Sea Turtles. In: Biology and Conservation of Ridley Sea Turtles. P. Plotkin (ed) John Hopkins University Press. Pages 297-323.


Wibbels, T. (2008) Sex Determination and Sex Ratio in Ridley Sea Turtles. In: Biology and CuConservation of Ridley Sea Turtles. P. Plotkin (ed) John Hopkins University Press. Pages 167-189.


Dodd, K, Murdock, C., and Wibbels, T. (2007) Interclutch variation in sex ratios produced at pivotal temperature in the red-eared slider, a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination. Journal of Herpetology 40:544-549.


Murdock, C. and Wibbbels, T. (2006). Dmrt1 expression in response to estrogen treatment in a reptile with temperature-dependent sex determination. J. Exp. Zool. 306B: 134-139.


Geis, A.A. , Barichivich, W.J., Wibbels, T., Coyne, M., Landry, A.M.Jr., and Owens, D. (2005) Predicted sex ratio of juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles captured near Steinhatchee, Florida. Copeia 2005: 393-398.


Witzell, W., Geis, A.A., Schmid, J.R., and Wibbels, T. (2005) Sex ratio of immature Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempi), from Gullivan Bay, Ten Thousand Islands, south-west Florida. J. Mar. Biol. 85, 205-208.


Wibbels, T. (2004) Sea Turtles of Alabama: The Loggerhead Sea Turtle, The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, The Leatherback Sea Turtle, The Green Sea Turtle. In: Alabama Wildlife, Volume 3, Imperiled Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals. R.E. Mirachi, M. Bailey, T.M. Haggerty, and T.L. Best (Eds). Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources pp. 45-51.


Murdock, C. and Wibbels, T. (2003) Expression of Dmrt1 in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination. Cytogenetics and Genome Research, 101:302-308.


Wibbels T. (2003) Critical approaches to sex determination in sea turtle biology and conservation. In: Biology of Sea Turtles, Volume 2. P. Lutz, J. Musik, J. Wynekan (eds), CRC Press. pp 103-134.


Wibbels, T. (1999). Diagnosing the sex of sea turtles in foraging habitats. In: Research and Management Techniques for the Conservation of Sea Turtles. K. Eckert, K. Bjorndal, and A. Abreu, M. Donnelly (eds), IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Publication No. 4.


Fleming, A., Wibbels, T., Skipper, J., and Crews, D. (1999). Developmental expression of steroidogenic factor 1 mRNA in the red-eared slider turtle, a species with temperature-dependent sex determination. General and Comparative Endocrinology (in press)


Wibbels, T., Hillis-Starr, Z-M., and Phillips, B. (1999) Female-biased sex ratios of hatchling hawksbill sea turtles from a Caribbean nesting beach. Journal of Herpetology 33: 142-144.


Wibbels, T., Hillis-Starr, Z-M., and Phillips, B. (1999) Female-biased sex ratios of hatchling hawksbill sea turtles from a Caribbean nesting beach. Journal of Herpetology 33: 142-144.


Wibbels, T., Wilson, C., and Crews, D. (1999) Mullerian duct development and regression in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination. Journal of Herpetology 33:149-152.


Wibbels, T., Cowan, J., and LeBoeuf, R. (1998) Temperature-dependent sex determination in the red-eared slider turtle,Trachemys scripta. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 281: 409-416

Wibbels, T., Rostal, D., and Byles, R. (1998) High pivotal temperature in the sex determination of the olive ridley sea turtle from Playa Nancite, Costa Rica. Copeia 1998: 1086-1088.


Hanson, J., Wibbels, T., and Martin, R. E. (1998) Predicted female bias in hatchling sex ratios of loggerhead sea turtles from a Florida nesting beach. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76:1850-1851.


Wibbels, T., Hanson, J, Balazs, G., Hillis-Starr, Z-M., Phillips, B. (1998) Blood sampling techniques for hatchling cheloniid sea turtles. Herpetological Review 29: 218-220.


Bergeron, J.M., Gahr, M., Horan, K., Wibbels, T., and Crews. (1998) Cloning and in situ hybridization in the developing gonads of the red-eared slider turtle, a species with temperature-dependent sex determination. Development, Growth, and Differentiation 40: 243-254.


Hines, G.A., , Boots, L.R., Wibbels, T., and Watts, S.A.. (1998) Steroid levels and steroid metabolism in relation to early gonadal development in the tilapia Oreochromis niloticus (Teleostei: Cyprinoidei). General and Comparative Endocrinology 114: 235-248.