It's Nearly September, Someone Tell the Loggerheads

Few things are as adorable as loggerhead hatchlings.  This little one’s hotfoot-scurry to the sea was captured by Lisa Morse, working in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area (via Marine Photobank).

Loggerhead nests abound on the east coast of Florida. During a long beach walk today I was thrilled to count dozens – leading to hundreds – of nests out on the Refuge.  The rather interesting thing: some of these nests are fresh from the past week!

For those of you who are in-the-know about turtle biology, you’ll remember that incubation takes an average of sixty-ish days before the little eggs will be ready to rock and roll.  Sixty days from now is roughly Halloween!  Do turtles hatch that late into the year?   My gut says no, and the reports online seem to suggest that later nests don’t usually make it for reasons varying from coastal flooding and washout from passing tropical systems and hurricanes, to predation and improper temperatures.

Still, I’m curious: why bother going to the trouble, as a Mama Turtle, to haul oneself up that long stretch of sand and dole out huge energy investments in the form of fifty to two-hundred leathery eggs this late in the season?  Did they just not get the message earlier?

Turns out many females will actually build several nests throughout the season and won’t rely on a single clutch.  It does make you wonder though, if the later nests fail so often to yield any young, wouldn’t this behavior tend to weed itself out over time?

Perhaps the turtles are so bent on remembering the coordinates of their natal beaches that they don’t imprint on the timing of their clutches throughout the summer months.  Then again I suppose this is like asking a sea turtle if they know what month of the summer it is.  (Can you picture me crouching with a long pole, microphone attached, yards away from a loggerhead to ask her, “Miss Turtle, do you know the date?  Is it July or August?”?)  If the water’s warm and the seas are fair and the moon is right, maybe they simply continue on with nesting.  Hmm.

Another day another mystery my friends.


One Comment to “It's Nearly September, Someone Tell the Loggerheads”

  1. Maybe they know something we don’t know. It would be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between the number of late nests and the average fall temperatures, hurricane developments, etc. If there were more late nests in years that had extremely mild temperatures during the fall/winter then perhaps the sea turtles have more than just the GPS app up in that brain of theirs; they may actually be able to predict weather. Or they could just be stubborn. Still would be interesting research…