When sea turtles crawl onto land to lay their eggs, they appear as though they are crying, shedding tears from their eyes. Legend has it that these mother turtles are crying for their unborn young. Actually, these turtles aren’t sad and they aren’t crying. Their bodies are simply shedding excess salt, as well as protecting their eyes from the sand while they work on land to make their nests.
All living animals and plants need water to survive. Because sea turtles live in salty ocean water their entire lives, their bodies have adapted to survive without any freshwater. Turtles that live on land would not be able to tolerate the ocean water because of its salinity. They would suffer from dehydration quickly. Unlike land and freshwater aquatic turtles, sea turtles have a salt gland to rid their bodies of excess salt. This gland allows sea turtles to drink salt water while maintaining the salt balance in their bodies. This gland empties into the sea turtles’ eyes. Other animals like sea birds have these specialized salt glands also.
This salty solution that is released from their eyes also protects the nesting mother turtle’s eyes from the sand on the beach. It also helps keep their eyes moist so they do not dry out, since nesting turtles can spend up to a couple of hours on the beach making their nest.
You can also help nesting sea turtles fulfill an important part of their species’ life cycle. Remember to stay away and give a nesting mother her space, cover up any holes you dig on the beach, and turn off distracting lights on the coast when it’s dark.
Our hatchlings continue to grow throughout the nesting season! Turtle A now weighs 1309 grams and measures 20.3 cm long, while Turtle B weighs 1199 grams and measures 19.2 cm long. Use this information in our Hatchling to Yearling lesson plan.