Turtles are versatile creatures that live in both land and water. These reptiles have been on planet earth for millions of years and adapt well to any environment. While some thrive in the oceans, the others live in rivers and freshwater streams.
You may also find turtles living in the open sea, deserts, and even extremely cold regions. In such extreme conditions, they hibernate to survive the cold winters. Where the turtle resides and how they breed depends on the species it belongs to. Based on their species, they have an average lifespan that ranges from 30 to 100 years.
Irrespective of their basic differences, a turtle’s life cycle has a similar pattern as that of the reptile species. You may come across seven different species of sea turtles, which includes:
- Leatherback turtles.
- Green Sea turtles.
- Olive Ridley turtles.
- Flatback turtles.
- Hawksbill turtles.
- Loggerhead turtles.
- Kemp’s Ridley turtles.
Each of these different species, go through the basic life cycle of a reptile. In this post, we will find out in detail about each stage in the life cycle process.
Different Stages In The Lifecycle Of A Sea Turtle
The lifecycle of a turtle starts when the female lays the eggs on the beach. Let’s look into each stage in detail.
Most adult female turtles come to the warm beaches to lay their eggs during the nesting season. After mating, the females come to the beaches, dig holes in the mud or sand and lay their eggs in clutches. A female turtle is capable of laying 100 – 200 soft-shelled eggs at a time. They bury the eggs at the shoreside, cover up the pit with sand, and return to the feeding grounds. Unlike Tortoises, turtles do not stay near the eggs and protect them.
After each nesting season, the adult female turtles return to the feeding region to replenish their energy for the next nesting season. This takes around one year or, in certain cases, many years.
Hatchling Stage and Early Years.
Based on the species, the time for hatching the eggs varies. The eggs remain incubated in the sand for around 40 – 50 days. During the incubation period, the temperature of the nest determines the gender of the hatchlings. Cooler temperatures result in males’ emergence from the hatching eggs, whereas the warmer temperatures result in female turtles.
Around 6 to 10 weeks later, the baby turtles crack the shell open and emerge from the eggs. As the eggshells are pliable and leathery, the hatchlings have to break their way out using a caruncle or egg tooth. Next, they head out to the open sea immediately and spend a long time drifting through the strong ocean currents.
Hatchlings usually wait till night falls to head to the sea. They use the darkness as a cover to protect themselves from the predators inside the water and on the beach. On reaching the water, the young ones go into a swimming frenzy mode – where they swim continuously to reach the deep waters. Their energy is mainly from the leftover egg yolk they are fueled on.
The hatchlings do not need any parental supervision and remain completely independent. However, 99% of the hatchlings do not reach adulthood. Most of the young ones perish during the tough and dangerous journey ahead.
The young turtles live most of their initial years in the ocean and are omnivores during this time. They feed mostly on animal and plant matter, Which includes small organisms present on the floating algae. After the initial years, the young Turtles settle near the seashore till they reach adulthood. The young turtles keep migrating from one waterbody to the other and remain mobile always. This stage in their life might last for around a decade and is often known as the ‘lost years.’ This is mainly because this phase in their life is quite tricky for survival, and their whereabouts remain unknown.
Entering Into Adulthood
Around 20 to 50 years after hatching, turtles become sexually mature and attain adulthood based on their species. These adult turtles can survive on both land and water. Most tend to spend longer periods underwater and come to the surface at intervals to get some air. As they have lungs and not gills, they need to breathe air just like humans.
In this stage, the adult Turtles move from the current location to the mating ground. During the breeding season, the adult male starts courting the females by nodding their heads or rubbing against the female companion’s body. Some turtle species bump their shells onto her or bite onto the legs of the females.
Certain species of female turtles carry their fertilized eggs within them for over a year. They come to the shore and lay their eggs little by little in small clutches over time. Both the parents do not take part in the process of rearing their hatchlings.
A mature adult turtle can grow up to 5 – 6 inches in length and weigh around 1500 pounds. The adult turtles usually feed on algae, seaweeds, and seagrass. They also consume small animals such as snails, shrimps, crabs, jellyfish, sea sponges, and molluscs.
Turtle Facts About Their LifeTime
Even though turtles grow at a very slow pace, the time taken does not affect their bodies. The internal organs present in an old turtle is almost similar to that of a young turtle. It is one of the most ancient creatures alive on planet earth and happens to be the longest-lived species. Most sea turtles have a lifespan that lasts for more than 100 years, which is quite similar to their tortoise cousins who thrive on land.
No known facts are available on how long sea turtles survive while in the wild. However, scientists consider that their lifespan may be more than 100 years. There is no definite answer to their exact lifespan. As for the average life expectancy, sea turtles have an average lifespan that ranges from 25 to 30 years. Sadly, turtles encounter a large number of threats due to massive human activities.
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