Loggerhead turtle hatchlings
from Mon Repos, Queensland
Also called: loggerhead sea turtle or loggerhead marine turtle
Newborn loggerhead sea turtles
Note: Because we missed the broad-shelled turtles hatching at Calamvale Creek, we will show you what another type of newly hatched turtle looks like. We went to Mon Repos beach and got photos of loggerhead turtles hatching. These marine turtles obviously are not the same as our creek's freshwater turtles, but they are cute and tiny.
This baby loggerhead emerged from its nest only minutes before we took this photo. It was one of more than 100 baby loggerhead turtles that hatched from the nest at Mon Repos, 14 kilometres from Bundaberg on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia.
Mother loggerheads lay their eggs in holes they dig in the sand between about November and February.
They lay around 127 eggs in each clutch, and may lay three clutches in a season. Incubation lasts between 6 and 8 weeks.
The babies use a small egg tooth on their nose and sharp claws on their front flippers to break the shell. All turtles in the clutch hatch together. They push up from the bottom of the nest and do a relay, as the leaders get tired, to reach the surface.
When the loggerhead hatchlings emerge, they swarm out of the nest and quickly scurry down the beach to the ocean.
They generally hatch at night — between sunset and sunrise. (The turtles on this page hatched at 9:30 pm during a full moon.)
Babies follow light
Newborn babies head towards the lowest light on the horizon, so researchers can use a small flashlight to direct the hatchlings away from the sea for a short time to study them.
Artificial lights on nearby headlands or esplanades behind a beach can disorient the babies and cause them to go in the wrong direction. So conservation-minded governments try to keep artificial light to a minimum around nesting areas.
As the hatchlings scurry down to the water, an amazing process of “magnetic imprinting” takes place. The tiny turtles — only minutes old — take note of the magnetic field and orientation of the place on earth where they enter the ocean, and remember this forever.
The females may take 30 years to return to their birthplace to lay their own eggs.
Surviving the ocean
The perils of the ocean are vast for the small turtles, and only about one in a thousand survives to maturity.
They can be hit by boat propellers or jet skis, swallow fishing lines or other debris that looks like food, get caught in shrimp or fish nets, or be picked off by birds and other predators.
When the loggerheads reach the ocean, they will swim 24 hours a day for several days, living mostly on the yolk sac protein from their eggs.
They can swim at speeds up to 25 kilometres and hour (15 miles per hour).
As they grow, they will expand their diet to eating jellyfish, crabs, shrimps, octopuses, conchs, small fish and sea urchins. They also sometimes eat seaweed.
Loggerhead turtle facts
- If you see a turtle laying eggs, stay away unless experts are guiding you. Your presence can frighten them and they may stop laying.
- Loggerheads are an endangered species — they lost around 70% of their east coast annual nesting population between 1997 and 2007.
- Don't handle the eggs or put anything in the nest — you may damage the eggs or introduce bacteria.
- Don't try to ride the turtles — it is illegal and you could injure the turtle.
- Don't disturb turtle tracks on the sand — researchers use these to get important information about the type of turtle and its habits.
- Mon Repos beach, near Bundaberg in Queensland, has become a major conservation site protecting endangered turtles.
- The sex of turtles is determined by temperature of their surroundings. A hot environment will produce mainly girls, and colder surroundings will produce mainly boys.
- It is common for a single clutch to produce all males or all females.
You can see photos of a broad-shelled turtle laying her 7 eggs at Calamvale Creek in our articles on Betsy the broad-shelled turtle.