Your Definitive Guide To Water Turtle Eggs | 5 Mind-Blowing Facts

May 9, 2021

Water turtle eggs

Much has been read and said about terrestrial and semi-aquatic turtles. But aquatic turtles still pretty much clearly fall under marine biologists’ domain. If you’re interested, here’s a holistic and simplified guide on caring for water turtle eggs. 

Water turtles, also known as sea/aquatic turtles/ lay around 110 eggs in a nest. And they can average between 2 to 8 nests in one season. The group of eggs in a nest is called a clutch, and it largely varies by species. 

For example, Flatback turtles lay the smallest clutches of around just 50 eggs. And the largest clutches are laid by Hawksbill turtles, who can lay up to 200 eggs in one nest!

Okay, now that you know the numbers, let’s delve into the topic of how these water turtle eggs look. 

What Do Sea Turtle Eggs Look Like?

Water turtle eggs are about as big as a ping pong ball, and they’re just as delicate with soft shells. Normally, the eggs are spherical in shape. But sometimes, due to adjoined or elongated calcium strands, they tend to look misshaped. 

Sometimes, sea turtles lay small, infertile eggs that only contain the whites, not the yolk. 

The Leatherbacks often lay these infertile eggs in every clutch. 

Here’s a video of a mother sea turtle laying her eggs! Super interesting!

What Influences The Sex Of Sea Turtles?

Baby sea turtle
Baby sea turtle

You’d be surprised to know that the nest’s temperature determines the hatchling’s gender. This phenomenon is known as Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination (TSD). Usually, warmer temperature increases the chance of the hatchling becoming a female, whereas cooler temperatures often result in a male-dominant clutch. 

There’s also a pivotal temperature that produces an equal ratio of female and female eggs. However, besides temperature, the species of turtle and their nest locations also play a key part. 

Now that we’re done with the biological segment of water turtle eggs, let’s move on to some interesting behavioristic questions. 

How Do Sea Turtles Nest?

A sea turtle’s nesting process spans various stages. The female turtle comes out of the sea at night and climbs to the beach, searching for a dark and peaceful nesting spot. Once she selects one, she will start digging a body pit using all four flippers. 

Once the body pit is dug, she’ll work on the egg chamber. Note that she’ll use her rear flippers alternately to scoop out the moist sand for this process. 

Once she reaches the desired depth, she will start contractions. For this process, she’ll raise her rear flippers off the sand. After each contraction, the gravid turtle will release between one to four eggs in instant succession. 

Usually, the eggs almost fill the full chamber. And once she is done laying eggs, she’ll cover the clutch with the previously dug sand. 

She will gently pat the moist sand on top of the eggs to help them camouflage better. Next, she throws dry, surface sand on top of it to make the location look as natural as possible. Smart!

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Do Female Turtles Attend Their Nests?

Once she’s done, she’ll climb down the beach and return to the sea and never come back. Yes, you read that right. After the nesting process is completed, the female never shows up. The eggs and hatchlings are left behind to fend themselves and find their way to the water. 

Luckily, turtles are phototactic beings – meaning they’re naturally attracted to the light. 

That’s why young hatchlings are guided back to the sea by the bright moonlight reflecting on the sea. 

Even as hatchlings, turtles avoid dark shadows, including dune vegetation at the top of the beach where most predators live. Nature’s amazing, right?

How Can Sea Turtles Return To The Same Beach To Nest?

Okay, ending this article with the most amazing Q&A.

There are several theories behind how sea turtles locate this area, although none have been proven. From detecting the earth’s magnetic field to following smell and low-frequency sounds, there are several interesting and plausible theories behind this truly remarkable phenomenon. 

The newest theory gaining traction these days is that sea turtles can detect both the earth’s magnetic fields’ intensity and angle. Using these two features, they can ascertain the longitude and latitude of a place – enabling them to practically navigate anywhere. 

Another equally interesting theory is that hatchlings imprint their natal beach’s unique features while still in the nest or during the first trip to sea. These beach characteristics reportedly include smell, magnetic fields, and low-frequency sounds. 

However, the most plausible explanation is that younger female turtles follow experienced gravid turtles from the feeding grounds to the breeding site. 

Conclusion On Water Turtle Eggs

So, that was my short guide on water turtle eggs that I hope you found useful. 

Although the general public doesn’t know much about aquatic turtles, they’re not too different than their semi-aquatic and terrestrial cousins. 

Water turtles lay small eggs size of a ping pong in numbers ranging from 50 to 200. The number of eggs in one clutch depends largely on the turtle species. 

Let us know if you have any more queries! 

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.