Member Highlight: Turtle Power: Endangered Species Spawn On Florida Beaches

2017-05-01T18:16:07+00:00 April 21, 2017|
 Green sea turtle. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

(Click to enlarge) Green sea turtle. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

Visit Siesta Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast this time of year and the scene will be exactly as you’d expect: a mixture of teens spring breaking on the famous silky, white sand and snowbirds combing the shores for shells. It’s a calming respite for many.

(From USA Today / By Sarah Sekula) — Soon enough, another annual visitor will show up, also seeking refuge. Once May rolls around, mama sea turtles will make their way to Sarasota County for nesting season. They arrive quietly in the wee hours, so chances are, you will never even notice them.

That said, it may come as a surprise that Sarasota County has the highest density of turtle nests on the Gulf Coast, hosting up to 6,000 nests a year, and the east coast of Florida hosts up to 40,000. Even more impressive, Florida’s beaches host the largest aggregation of nesting loggerheads in the world.

Seeing hatchlings emerge from the nest is an amazing experience. The sand begins to move up and down like bubbles in a pot of boiling water. Tiny heads and flippers break the surface by the dozens and quite suddenly there are loads of babies bumbling about, each no bigger than a child’s palm. Within a few minutes to a few hours, one tenacious hatchling starts trucking it to the sea. The rest follow.

“You can’t even count them all as they pour from the nest and make their way to the ocean without a care in the world, just the instinct to follow the light,” says Kristen Mazzarella, a biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

“They traverse over lots of obstacles from seaweed to holes in the sand and just keep going until they hit the water. It sometimes takes them a moment to realize that they need to switch to swimming, but after a few tosses by the waves, they swim out and have the whole ocean to explore.

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