Friday, September 5, 2008

Awww… Hatchlings!!!

Each night we have been seeing the signs of hatchlings emerging. Their little tracks can be seen heading towards the water. The sea turtle hatchlings follow the light on the horizon in order to find their way. Once they hit the water they know how to swim, it is a natural instinct for them. We are unable to determine if the babies are female or male at this stage since they are so small. Sex is actually determined by the temperatures of the sand in which they develop.

Flatback sea turtles lay around 50 eggs in each clutch. This is a small number compared with other types of sea turtles, which lay at least 100. But flatback babies are large compared to other types. To me and Brett they are the cutest too. Their shells are much more defined than others and have a bluish tint to them. I personally get lost in how adorable they are.

When we see them at night my motherly instincts take over and I try to save them all from the predators on the beach. The hard thing is that they tend to follow our lights, thinking that it is the light on the horizon. So once we have them headed in the right direction we have to turn off our lights quick and hope for the best.

Last night Brett and I saw hatchling tracks which were much smaller than the normal flatback baby. Brett dug up the clutch to measure the success and to determine the type of turtle. We found out that it was an olive ridley sea turtle clutch. It had a total of 123 empty shells from those that hatched (we also found 1 undeveloped egg and 2 dead hatchlings). The exciting part for me was when Brett took out a little one who was alive. Then he took out 3 which he thought were dead, but with a little encouragement and rubbing done by me, one started to move. It soon became just as active as the other one. Another surprise was when a flatback started crawling towards us while we were sitting there digging up the clutch with our lights on. Aww, it was so adorable. It was amazing how much different the two species of sea turtle are. I made sure there were no other flatback hatchlings around who needed my defence from the birds, etc. who lurked in the dark waiting for a snack. I brought them closer to a pool of water left by the tide going out. I put them down, we shut off our lights, and let them continue on their journey.

The hatchlings who are females will come back to this very same beach to lay when they are mature enough to. How amazing! So maybe in 30 plus years if we are still doing research we will see these babies returning. It is so neat to think that these adult females who we are tagging have been born here as well.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I am in awe of your work ! This was so inspiring to read- I'll get there- I want to see this in person and i want to help them too.
Love you both- Nancy