Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012 Sea Turtle Hatching Update– Our Own Exciting ‘Triathlon’ Here at the GTM NERR

Approximately 120 Loggerhead hatchlings emerge naturally from nest GS025 at the GTM NERR. Photo courtesy of Irene Kaufman.

2012 Sea Turtle Hatching Update:

The 2012 sea turtle nesting season here at the GTM NERR has been very exciting so far. To date, our beaches have over 180 nests. While the number of nests is on target with last season, the timing of the nesting has had some interesting differences. The turtles began to nest early compared to recent years and as far as we can tell have consequently tapered off early as well.

While the baby turtles hatch, marine turtle volunteers conduct evening evaluations three days after the first signs emergence or after 70 days of incubation as a part of our Nesting Beach Survey. These evaluations are well underway this season, with roughly 60 nests already having been evaluated. We are encouraged about the success of this season so far since these nests are looking relatively well with an overall high hatching success rate. With all this activity taking place mid-nesting season, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate their success and reflect upon their journey thus far.

The Baby Sea Turtle Triathlon:

Most sea turtle species hatch in summer after a 45-70 day incubation period depending on species, clutch size, temperature, and humidity. In a way, their journey from nest to sea can be compared to an Olympic athletic event! Their “Triathlon” consists of:

·       Hatching & Emerging –

When a sea turtle hatches, it uses a carbuncle, or temporary egg tooth, to break open their leathery shell.  Once hatched, the dig begins! It can take three to seven days for these young turtles to finally dig their way to the surface.

·       The Crawl-

As if these ‘tri-athletes’ had not been tested enough during hatching & emerging, they still have to reach the ocean. It is theorized that a hatchling may use an internal magnetic compass to crawl towards sea, or that they may distinguish light intensities thus following the light toward the horizon. During this time they are exposed to predators such as birds and other animals, many hatchlings wait until night to emerge to reduce this exposure.

Loggerhead hatchlings of nest GS025 head toward the sea.
Photo courtesy of Irene Kaufman.

  • The Swimming Frenzy-

If a hatchling is able to successfully completes its crawl and reach the surf it will dive, riding the undertow to sea. There is a 24 to 48 hour “swimming frenzy” period during which they swim continuously. This is another vulnerable time for our young ‘athletes’ as they are open to exhaustion and predation. For the winners, the prize is a deep sea trip. It is not known for sure where they spend the next “lost year”- they are rarely seen.

 How you can help:

As you can see it is a long and difficult journey from nest to sea for sea turtle hatchlings. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, has stated that an estimated 75% of all sea turtle eggs laid will hatch.  Fewer will make it all the way to sexually mature adulthood- according to The Sea Turtle Conservancy and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, recent research estimates it at only 1 out of every 1000. We have some tips that can help us all reduce our own negative impact on their success:

If you see hatchlings emerging-
  • Provide plenty of distance between you and the nest.
  • Do not shine lights on or near hatchlings, this can disorient them and prevent them from reaching the ocean.
  • Enjoy the amazing event!

During nesting season (March through October on Florida’s Atlantic Coast)-
  • It is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests. Sea turtles are protected by both the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Florida Marine Protection Act.
  • If you must be on the beach at night, limit your walking and do not use flashlights or flash photography.
  • If you live on the ocean, turn off outside patio lights and shield indoor lights from shining directly onto the beach by closing the drapes at night. Light may cause the female to abort the nesting process, or other sea turtles nearby may be discouraged from nesting if there are lights on the beach.
  • Avoid disturbing marked sea turtle nests.
  • Report signs of nesting to a GTM NERR employee so nests can be marked.
Don’t forget you can also adopt a sea turtle nest to support The GTM Research Reserve Sea Turtle Patrol Program. Your support will enable volunteers to increase awareness and continue their outreach and educational efforts. Through our outreach and education programs, we hope to have a long-lasting and meaningful impact on the sea turtle nesting population by:

  1. Reducing the disturbance and harassment of nesting sea turtles by educating the public about the hazards of night time beach activities and the importance of responsible beachfront lighting.
  2. Increasing the hatchling survival rate by educating the public of the dangers associated with beach obstructions on the beach and human intervention.
  3. Aiding injured sea turtles and returning them to their natural habitat.
For more information on the GTM NERR’s sea turtle research programs and conservation efforts, visit us at: .


  1. Thank you for the information of sponsoring a turtle nest. We have talked about this in our family and how this would be a great opportunity! Go Turtles Go!

    1. That's excellent to hear! Thank you for reading our blog!

  2. Do you normally compose solely for this website or you do this for some other online or offline resources?