A short nursery at the beach

Turtle hatchlings, which – as shown in the MEERESMUSEUM using the example of leatherback turtles – hatch from their eggs deep in the sand and dig up to the surface, usually only meet once in life. This happens when they embark together on the arduous path to the nearby water. Then each one follows their own destiny on their solitary voyage through the world's oceans. Only many years later would a meeting be possible, if the female animals arrive at their birth beach to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles have some special habits in the breeding behaviour. The mother digs her eggs up to 80 centimetres deep in the sand of the beach. For example, a clutch for Leatherback turtles contains around 100 eggs. Before the newly hatched juveniles escape into the sea, some strange things happen in the nest. All turtle young hatch after 50-90 days almost simultaneously. The first young animal, which has broken through its shell, gives the signal to the others. The little ones need four whole days for the voyage upwards. Previously, the temperature in the sandpit has decided the sex of the offspring. At up to 29.5 degrees the hatch is mostly males, if it is warmer almost the entire nest is females. You can see how dangerous turtle life then becomes from the fact that out of 100 eggs, ultimately only one Leatherback turtle reaches adulthood.

And the list of hazards is long. It already starts in the nursery when nest robbers looting the clutch or careless beach hikers trample the eggs. That is why in the time between nesting and turtle birth many of the affected beaches are under strict guard by conservationists.


  • Title: The loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings leave the nest.
  • Physical Location: Deutsches Meeresmuseum, Stiftung Deutsches Meeresmuseum
  • Rights: photo: Johannes-Maria Schlorke

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