The pivotal temperature!
Whether hatchlings are male or female depends on the temperature where they are in the nest, known as the “pivotal temperature." Temperature dependant sex determination is a phenomenon unique to most turtles. The temperature varies slightly among species, at which embryos within a nest develop into a mix of males and females. Temperatures above this range produce females and colder temperatures produce males.
After about 45 - 50 days, the hatchlings begin to pip, or break out of their eggs, using a small temporary tooth located on their snout called a caruncle. Once out of their eggs, they will remain in the nest for a number of days. During this time they will absorb their yolk, which is attached by an umbilical to their abdomen. This yolk will provide them the much-needed energy for their first few days while they make their way from the nest to offshore waters.
Emergence The hatchlings begin their emergence out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating nighttime, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Hatchlings use the natural light horizon, which is usually over the ocean, along with the white crests of the waves to reach the water when they emerge from the nest. Any other light sources such as beachfront lighting, street lights, headlight from cars can lead hatchlings in the wrong direction, also known as disorientation. Disorientation from artificial lighting causes thousands of hatchling deaths.
When the hatchlings successfully make it down the beach and reach the surf, they begin what is called a “swimming frenzy” which may last for several days and varies in intensity and duration among species. The swimming frenzy gets the hatchlings away from dangerous near shore waters where predation is high. Once hatchlings enter the water, their "lost years" begin and their whereabouts will be unknown for as long as a decade.
Crawl to freedom!
Watching a baby turtle struggle out of the nest and make its way to the water is an emotional experience. Everything from footprints to driftwood and crabs are obstacles, though this gauntlet is important for its survival. Birds and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face; some experts say only one out of a thousand will survive to adulthood under natural conditions.
We wish to do our bit to help secure the beginning of their life-journey. Join us as we make way to Rushikulya, Odisha to protect & to lend a hand to the hatchlings, in the right direction! We promise it would be an experience of a life-time as we patrol, protect this vulnerable species.