The life of a baby turtle begins right from the time the mother lays the egg. Most of the eggs are commonly located in the tropics and sub-tropics region. Once the mother lays the eggs, she covers it up with sand, keeping it safe from egg hunters. She then swims back into the ocean, living the baby egg to survive on its own.
Right from the time of laying the egg to the point of hatching, the forming baby turtle has to survive. Unfortunately, the survival of the turtle is mainly dependent on some uncontrollable factors. Some of the main factors are extremes of temperatures as well as the presence of predators.
The baby turtle lacks a sex hormone; hence, their sex is determined by the temperature of that location. This temperature is known as the “Pivotal temperature.” The pivotal temperature is different, depending on the various species. The range of this temperature is between 83 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit, equivalent to 28 – 29 degrees Celsius.
The extremes of temperature determine the gender of the species. The hotter temperature births the female species, and the colder temperature births the male species. The increasing temperature in the tropics makes scientists fear that females will dominate the next generation of sea turtles.
The number of days the eggs take to hatch depends on the species, with the average being between 45 – 70 days. Once the incubation period is complete, the hatchlings begin to break open the shell. They do this with the help of the egg tooth located on their snout. This tooth is called the Caruncle. Once the breaking is successful, the baby turtle remains in its egg for some days. During this period, the baby turtle feeds on its yolk, offering enough nutrients for the turtle to begin its journey.
Once the baby turtle is strong enough, it moves out of the egg and climbs out of the nest. It then waits for the temperature of the sand to cool before it begins its journey. This wait is a survival mechanism used by the baby turtle. This is because it knows that the predators will no longer be available around this time. Also, they will be safe from excessive heat around this period.
Once it is nightfall, the baby tall crawls in a coordinated manner, while finding its path using various cues. These cues include the slope of the beach, the natural light of the ocean, and the waves’ white crests.
Once the baby turtle gets to the beach, they begin their swimming journey, away from the dangerous nearshore predators. This movement is called the “swimming frenzy,” It can last for a number of days.
From this point, the “lost year” of the baby sea turtle begins, and their location is most times unknown.