The basic turtle facts about habits and life cycles can leave anyone in awe of the wonders of nature. It amazes most people to learn that after mating, a female turtle will seek out the very same beach where she hatched with unerring accuracy. Some types of turtle nest only on one beach in the entire world. This intriguing aspect can however threaten their survival in modern times.
A good practical example of this involves looking at the Sri Lankan beaches. Five different types of sea going turtles, namely the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the leatherback turtle, the loggerhead turtle and the olive ridley turtle, lay their eggs here. The most important nesting beaches are in the regions that also have the greatest concentration of human habitation and hatching occurs during the height of the tourism season. Efforts have been made to contain the human element by declaring some of these national parks, such as Wilpattu and Yala. Another strategy is the creation of hatcheries where visitors to Sri Lanka can observe the process first hand. The problem is that keeping so many eggs in a relatively small space renders them more vulnerable to natural catastrophes such as floods and ground erosion.
In the experience of the handlers at the commercial hatcheries, picking the eggs up and taking them to another location impacts on the number of eggs that hatch. After about twenty-four hours of incubation, a white patch appears on a fertile turtle egg. If eggs are handled after this crucial development, the baby turtle might not hatch. At some hatcheries, tourists are permitted to hold the hatchlings and they are usually held a few days before being taken to the ocean. According to experts, this may interfere with their natural imprinting.
There are laws in place in certain beachfront areas in the United States that forbid citizens from using bright illumination near known nesting beaches. Scientists assert that moonlight possibly contributes significantly towards the orientation of young hatchlings as they make their first sojourn towards the sea.
The most captivating of all turtles must be the giant sea going species. It has been theorized that their development split from that of other types of turtles more than 100 million years in the past. Unlike most of the turtles we know, they cannot withdraw their heads and legs into the carapace for protection.
Besides being the largest turtle species, the leatherback is also distinguished by the very nature of its shell. It is composed of leathery skin that is armored by the presence of thousands of inflexible plates of bone.
Some turtle related words may seem a little obscure. Not everyone would know that a turtle’s naval cavities could be called its nares. There are words to describe the different forms of hibernation turtles submit to. Simply put, they brumate in the winter months and some species also aestivate during the hottest, driest spell of summer. The middle section of a scute has been called its areola. The collective noun used to describe an assembly of turtles is a bale.
A treasure trove of turtle facts can be accessed through various websites, books, discussion forums and dedicated magazines.