Watching sea turtles hatch is a popular activity in areas like Florida and Mexico. Sea turtles have a fascinating way of beginning their life with their long journey to the ocean. But you might be wondering when do sea turtles hatch?
Sea turtles hatch all year round, with the main months being May through October. They often emerge at night to avoid predators, after 3 to 7 days of digging to the surface. Undisturbed nests have a 90% of hatching with no problems.
If you’d like to learn about sea turtle-hatching habitats, keep on reading. We’ll go over how, when, and where they hatch, and what factors can affect this.
Let’s dive in.
When do sea turtles hatch?
During the summer months, sea turtle nesting and hatching numbers increase. They also prefer to hatch at night.
There are a few reasons why they do this, and we’ll go over them now.
Temperature plays an important role in turtle nests. The temperature of a nest can indicate the sex of the hatchlings.
This can depend on the species of sea turtle. A green sea turtle nest produces more males at 82°F, and more females at 88°F.
Since sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, they need high temperatures to survive. They cannot regulate body heat by themselves and rely on their environment to keep them warm.
This influences where they live and lay their eggs. Sea turtles like warmer waters, so they lay their eggs on the beaches of these warm waters.
Predators are also something sea turtles need for survival. To lower the chances of predation, hatchlings prefer to emerge at night.
Although this can help, 90% of hatchlings still get eaten by predators. Others may be affected by light pollution from humans. This can injure them and lower their lifespan.
Common sea turtle predators include:
- Wild dogs
- Ghost crabs
These predators are more likely to attack the hatchlings on their journey to the ocean.
There are other predators that will attack when the hatchlings are in the sea. These include killer whales and tiger sharks.
Vultures are also known to take eggs from nests for food. They often wait for the female to lay them and then take them.
Some predators will also prey on adult females nesting, like jaguars and crocodiles.
Once the sea turtles are ready to hatch, they will break the eggshell with a temporary tooth called a carbuncle.
They then must dig up to the surface out of the sand. This process can take up to 3 to 7 days.
Then, they appear at night to avoid as many predators as they can. Once they reach the ocean, they begin a ‘swim frenzy’ where they swim for up to 48 hours.
Sea turtles are generally solitary creatures. Yet, this swimming frenzy helps the hatchlings work together to get into deeper water. This protects the hatchling for many predators and increases the chance of survival.
Sea turtle hatchlings may also dive to avoid seabirds and sometimes airplanes are above them. This behavior might be an adaption to prevent predation from seabirds.
Some species of sea turtle go through a phase called the lost years. This means that they stay oceanic for 1-3 years and don’t appear in coastal areas. Their diets can be more carnivorous during this time.
How long do sea turtles take to hatch?
Sea turtles have an incubation time of 45 to 70 days. The incubation time is often dependent on the species of sea turtle.
Location can differ a sea turtles incubation period. In colder areas, sea turtles can have a longer incubation period of 80 days.
This time allows the hatchlings to develop and is when the sex is determined. The temperature of the sand is crucial for this.
The sand will drop a couple of inches when the eggs are ready. This alerts people watching the nests prepare and watch the nest hatch.
The sand will also look like it’s boiling, which is why when they hatch it’s called a boil. They come out of the same in large numbers very quickly, making the sand look like it’s boiling.
The shortest incubation period was recorded on the northern coast of Kenya. This period lasted around 40 to 73 days.
But this time is where many hatchlings get eaten. Raccoons, foxes, and wild dogs dig up eggs and eat them.
They often leave the holes uncovered and vultures and poaches take the remaining eggs.
To prevent this, there are nest watchers that patrol these areas and provide protection for nests.
How many eggs do sea turtles lay?
Each turtle species has different clutch numbers. More than 1300 clutches can hatch in one nesting season.
This table shows the average number of eggs in a clutch for each species. It also shows when the hatchlings will hatch.
|Species||Clutch size||Hatching season|
|Flatback||Around 50 eggs||Late December – Late March|
|Green||Around 115 eggs||Mid-August – Early October|
|Hawksbill||Around 140 eggs||January – Early April|
|Kemp’s Ridley||Around 110 eggs||May – July|
|Leatherback||Around 110 eggs||March – July|
|Loggerhead||Around 112 eggs||October – February & July – November|
|Olive Ridley||Around 100 eggs||September – November|
As you can see in the table above, different species have different hatching times.
Although they have large clutches, 25% of these clutches have no yolk. This means that the embryo cannot grow and will have no nutrients.
These eggs are left behind and eaten by predators. They might also be taken by poachers to be sold and consumed.
Where do sea turtles hatch?
Sea turtles hatch in a variety of different places. They live in tropical areas and often lay their eggs on hot, subtropical beaches.
Common nesting areas include:
- Florida, USA
- Sri Lanka
- Costa Rica
These places have many beaches that are suitable for turtle nesting and hatchings. Most of these beaches are protected and have supervisors watching the turtles.
The hatchlings can bring a lot of tourists from around the world that are interested in seeing the turtle’s hatch. It can be an exciting experience for all.
If you are in any of these areas during the summer or hatching seasons, look out for organized turtle-watching events. They are often free of charge and can be an extra activity to do.
Where can I see sea turtles hatch?
There are many places you could go to see sea turtles hatching.
Many of the places mentioned above have programs and guides for tourists wanting to see the baby hatchlings.
The most common areas are Florida, Mexico, and Greece.
There are also many rules you might need to follow. Here are some examples:
- Avoid flash photography
- If bringing a light, use a red filter
- Always go and stay with a guide, don’t go alone
- Give the turtles space
- Never try to touch or feed them
- Make sure you don’t leave any litter on the beach
These events will often take place at night, so make sure you are equipped for watching and getting home.
If you’re bringing any kids teach them to be careful and be aware of the sea turtles.
Sea turtles hatch in the months of summer and emerge at night. Temperature and predation affect these decisions.
Sea turtles will then break out the egg and enter the ocean. Once they enter the ocean, they usually don’t resurface for up to 3 years.
Sea turtles also have an incubation period averaging around 45 to 70 days. Around 1300 clutches can be laid each season.
There are many places where you can watch the turtles nesting and hatching. If you visit, make sure to follow the rules and keep the turtles safe.