Baby Turtles: Nature in Focus
Baby turtles – otherwise known as ‘hatchlings’ – have perhaps the most stressful beginning to existence of any animal or mammal which contributes to their upsettingly high mortality rate (only one in every thousand hatchlings will make it to adulthood).
Their journey begins as an egg, laid by their mother (obviously). Their mother will likely return to the same beach that she was hatched on using the earth’s magnetic field, make her way up the beach past the high tide mark and dig a deep and precise hole in which she will deposit anything up to 150 eggs. The hatchlings will remain in their eggs for between 45 and 70 days (depending on the species) after which they hatch en-mass, breaking out of their shells using a tooth in their snout called a caruncle, and wait below the surface of the beach.
This is when the real chaos begins. In a coordinated effort hatchlings emerge almost simultaneously and race down to the water navigating themselves using the slope of the beach and the natural light on the ocean’s surface. They have to dodge the attentions of crabs, birds and myriad sea creatures before beginning a 24 hour “swimathon” into open water away from the dangerous shallow waters surrounding their nesting location and into rapid ocean currents.
If the hatchlings are able to successfully navigate to the sea and pick up an ocean current they then enter something called ‘the lost years’. This is a decade where researchers and scientists still aren’t entirely sure exactly what happens. There are theories that baby turtles attach themselves to clumps of seaweed and drift and feed in the open ocean until they are large enough to return to shallow waters to graze and continue their lives.
This incredible journey is already gargantuan without introducing the human factors which are endangering turtles such as artificial lighting, overfishing, beach activities and marine pollution. Therefore, it is no wonder that turtle conservation is so crucial to the species survival. To get involved in the conservation of baby turtles click here.