The scene is set in Cozumel, Mexico. Your heart will skip a beat when you see the nest full of itty bitty baby sea turtles. These babies are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
An impressive 82 baby sea turtles, each no more than a few inches long, slowly emerge from their sandy nests on the beach. With the help of volunteers, they confidently make their way to the shoreline and release into the ocean. It’s impressive how these little ones know exactly where to go and how to get there!
Watch The Entire Journey Below!
Baby sea turtles are small and adorable, but it’s not all sunshine and smiles for these hatchlings. Despite their small size, they face huge challenges – only 1 in 1000 will survive adulthood! What is the cause of this tremendous mortality rate? A lack of food options and predators.
Garbage can be a problem too. Hatchlings sometimes ingest garbage by mistake, and it can kill them. There are also predators like raccoons or birds looking to make a meal out of these tiny hatchlings. Sometimes a footprint in the sand is enough to stop a hatchling in its tracks. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, baby sea turtles are also affected by the weather.
Impact of Nest Temperature on Baby Turtle Gender
Did you know that the temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby sea turtle? If it’s warmer, there’s more likely to be females; cooler means more males. This is a big problem in Flordia, where the temperatures of sea turtle nests are higher. Rising temperatures due to climate change lead to many more female turtles hatching. So even something as simple as the sand’s temperature can hugely impact survival.
When they hatch, baby sea turtles use the natural light horizon, usually over the ocean, along with the white crests of the waves to reach the water. However, hatchlings can become confused in the face of artificial lights from buildings and roads. Sometimes they head towards land instead. That’s why there’s volunteers in this video. They’re not going to let anything stop these babies from getting in the ocean.
As if these challenges weren’t enough, many sea turtles are rarely seen for 1-3 years after hatching – the so-called “lost years.” Researchers believe that during this time, the hatchlings ride prevailing surface currents. Then they situate themselves in floating seaweed near food sources. Flatback hatchlings appear to remain about nine miles inshore.
When do these baby sea turtles emerge from their nests? Most species tend to hatch in the summer, and most of them wait until night falls before making their journey down the beach. As the sun sets, these little ones dash to their new home – the ocean!
What Do Sea Turtles Eat?
Green turtles are mainly herbivorous, while the loggerhead and leatherback will also feed on mollusks. Leatherbacks are mainly migratory and have superb diving skills. They can dive almost 4,000 feet deep! Their mouth is lined with spiny papillae that help them trap and consume their favorite food – jellyfish!
For the last 3 decades, researchers have been tracking baby sea turtles on their grand adventure. Using ocean data collected over 30 years, they can now follow these tiny travelers as they explore the vastness of the open seas. It’s like being part of an epic turtle odyssey!
It’s a fascinating route mother nature has mapped out for baby sea turtles from hatching to maturity. Watch the journey begin for these baby sea turtles in the video below!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Julian Wiskemann/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Available here: https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/sea-turtles/care-of-young/
- NOAA Fisheries, Available here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/10-tremendous-turtle-facts