Hatching

After approximately two months, the eggs begin to hatch. Incubation time varies by species:

  • Loggerheads: 45 – 60 days
  • Greens: 45 – 75 days
  • Leatherbacks: 60 – 75 days
  • Kemp’s ridleys: 48 – 56 days
  • Hawksbills: 60 – 75 days
  • Olive ridleys: 60 – 75 days
  • Flatbacks: 55 – 60 days

When a nest is ready to hatch, the sand above the nest will drop a few inches. This is due to the eggs hatching within the nest. Young turtles first have to cut their way out of the leathery egg using a temporary “egg tooth”. They then have to wiggle and dig and use each other for support to get to the surface. The hatchlings “boil” out of the nest and begin their “long,” dangerous journey to the sea.

Video courtesy Bald Head Island Conservancy.

photo by Juan Manuel Rguez-Baron

Some of these turtles are not able to get out of the nest, either because they hatched late or are buried under shells. Some turtles never even hatch out of their eggs. This is normal and happens for a variety of reasons.

After the little hatchlings dig their way out of the nest, they quickly orient and move towards the ocean. They use moonlight light reflected from the surface of the water as a guide.

Artificial light near beaches is major threat to hatchlings. The Artificial light is brighter than moonlight and can confuse them so they navigate towards that light and away from the ocean. This results in dehydration and predation. Artificial lighting causes tens of thousands of hatchling deaths per year.

Ghost crabs, raccoons, stray dogs and shore birds are some of the predators hatchlings must face before they hit the water.

photo by Christian Ramirez-Gallego

Sea turtle hatchlings are about 2 1/2 inches long and weigh about 1 ounce at birth.

photo by Christian Ramirez-Gallego

But they get bigger. (Shown here with a yearling ready to be released.)

photo by Christian Ramirez-Gallego