Life Cycle of Turtles

green turtle hatchling swimming

Green turtle hatchling swimming
© Chiara Fumagalli

The general life cycle of turtles are shared by all species:

  • Mother turtles come on to the beach at night to lay a nest of 100-200 eggs.
  • Nests will hatch in 40 to 60 days.
  • Baby turtles are completely independent at birth and never see their mothers.
  • After emerging from the nests, hatchlings crawl as quickly as possible to the sea and swim towards the open ocean.
  • Young turtles spend several years drifting with the currents (often referred to as the lost years), feeding on small animals living in algae floating in the water.
  • After a few years, immature turtles will settle close to shore where it may take them more than 30 years to reach adulthood.
  • Female turtles will swim back to the beach on which they were born to lay eggs every 2 to 3 years, while males will migrate annually from the feeding areas to the mating grounds.
  • Sea turtles have a very low natural survival rate: only 1 in 1,000 turtles will make it to adulthood.
turtle life cycle and threats info graphic

Graphics by Susie Gibson for MRC. Reused with permission.

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