Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle

Ocean Critters

How turtley do you need to be, to be turtley enough to join the turtle club? I would say more turtley than you can ever imagine. Most turtles don’t even make the club as only 1 in a 1000 turtles make it to adulthood. his is because the life cycle of a sea turtle is pretty intense. In their life they face many dangers and challenges and need to persevere against impossible odds. Even before a turtle is born they need to be tougher than their shells to survive. Let’s find out why.

You gotta Start Somewhere

The life cycle of a sea turtle starts in an egg… That’s buried in half a foot of sand. The mothers do not guard their nests but rather, they bury their eggs at night and return to the sea. Leaving nature to do the rest; literally It is as soon as mom leaves the eggs that the babies begin to face danger. Many birds, and scavenger animals like foxes will sniff out nests to eat the eggs. There are also human poachers who will dig up the eggs and sell them as food.

After the smorgasbord and 55-145 days most of the remaining eggs will hatch. Once they are born they stay in the nest for a number of days. They do this so that they may absorb their yoke and gain strength before the treacherous task ahead, Then, once the sand cools they now night has fallen. It is at this time that they make their escape!

The Treacherous Path

Though taking a stroll down the beach sounds easy, you need to remember you are not a baby turtle. There aren’t birds, dogs and other animals just waiting for you to pop your head out of the sand. Nor are you so small that fishing line, plastic bags, and other trash appear as impossible hurdles leading to potential death. Apart from avoiding hazards, baby turtles need to find the water. They do so by looking for natural light from the ocean horizon, feeling the slope of the beach and searching for wave crests. Unfortunately, lights from campfires, cars, towns and other artificial sources can confuse them, stopping them from ever finding the sea.

The little guys that do make it to the water then begin what’s called a swimming frenzy. Basically, they swim like mad until they reach the open ocean far away from coastal waters. On the way out they need to worry about birds, fish garbage, boats and fishing gear. Luckily, once they make it to the open ocean life is a little less hazardous. Beng away from the coast line means less birds, and little boat traffic. Unfortunately it does not reduce the amount

The ‘Lost Years’

Little is known about what baby turtles do once they get out to sea. There are many speculations such as they spend their time floating among seaweed, or drifting in ocean currents until they become larger. A group of scientists interested in the life cycle of a sea turtle carried out a study in which they tracked baby turtles using a solar tracker and satellites. They found that the turtles travel A LOT. I’m talking like 700 miles in 11 days a lot. It was also observed that the turtles stayed at the edge of the continental shelf. The turtles spend 8-11 years of their life this way. By this time they are around the size of a dinner plate. At this time they swim back inland to coastal waters where they live out their lives

Adulting Sea turtle style

Some sea turtles need to wait a long time before they can be considered an ‘adult.’ In fact, depending on species it can take anywhere form 10 to 50 years for some species. Once said species reaches sexual maturity they begin mating and reproducing. Female turtles tend to be promiscuous girls where ever they are, and will mate with multiple males. They do this because females have the ability to store sperm for long periods of time giving more genetic variety to their clutches.

Once they’ve finished getting giggidy-giggidy the male goes back to his normal life. The new mother on the other hand will make her way back to where she was born to lay her eggs. I find this to be an extraordinary feat. When that turtle was a baby they memorized how to get back ‘home’ to somewhere they potentially haven’t been in 50 years. Each turtle will lay between 2-8 nests consisting of 50-200 eggs (depending on species) each nesting season.

Why are Sea Turtles so Engangered?

Sea Turtles have been around for 65 million years. Despite all the dangers they face and odds that are stacked so against them. Yet now, sea turtles are facing extinction. This is because all of a sudden in the last 80 years new threats were introduced that sea turtles just don’t have a chance against. Initially, they became endangered in 1973, just 30 some years ago. This was due to over fishing of the species. People hunted them for their shells, meat, eggs, and leather. So much so that their populations dropped to unhealthy levels. Now, we have laws forbidding the hunting of turtles, yet they are still dying.

More and more turtles are dying from pollution. Not just fishing nets and, boat traffic, but plastic and chemicals that are entering being allowed to enter our ocean. Sometimes the garbage and toxic waste is even put there deliberately. Not to mention that many turtles have lost prime nesting grounds due to coastal development. o many people and lights means that turtles need to nest elsewhere. This combined with water pollution and the poaching of turtles, it is difficult for these species to survive on their own.

 

Over 300 turtles were found dead on the coast of mexico Photo Credit Goes to  Fox News

Become a Turtley Enough

Wanna join the turtle club? Then you need to fight these threats, just like the turtles. Reduce water pollution. Stop using so much plastic and go reusable. Don’t buy turtle products! As cool as it might be to have a carved turtle shell on your shelf at home, purchasing such an item is supporting illegal poaching. What is even better than saying no is to report the people who are selling these things. Another great way to join the turtle club is to share this post (yeah I know shameless self promotion, but for a good cause!). If you learnt anything about the life cycle of a sea turtle someone else can too!

Of Course another great way to help the  turtle is by supporting conservation efforts. There are many fantastic organizations out there that could use your help. One example is the Turtle Island Restoration Network. They have achieved some amazing accomplishments in turtle conservation such as shutting down a Mexican slaughter house and saving 50,000 turtles. Donating to this federally approved non-profit charity will aid in future endeavors such as these so you know your money is going to good use.

How do you plan on becoming part of the turtle club?

What surprised you most about the life cycle of a sea turtle?

Is there something I didn’t include about the life cycle of a sea turtle?

by | Sep 2, 2018 | Ocean Critters

The ocean is my biggest passion. As a SCUBA instructor I have a unique opportunity to show people exactly how precious the ocean is.  I aim to inspire others to love and respect the sea through education and diving.

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