Life Cycle Of Turtles

The general life cycle of turtles are shared by all sea turtle species, with some small differences

Life cycle of sea turtles diagram threats to sea turtles Olive Ridley Project
Graphics by Susie Gibson for MRC. Reused with permission.
  • The life cycle of turtles begins with female sea turtles coming on to the beach at night to lay a nest of 100-200 eggs.
  • Nests hatch in 40 to 60 days, depending on the species.
  • Baby turtles, or hatchlings, are completely independent at birth and never see their mothers.
  • As soon as they come out of the nest, hatchlings crawl as fast 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.
  • The time juvenile turtles spend on growing areas varies according to the species and food availability.
  • Upon reaching maturity, adult turtles migrate from their developmental areas to their mating grounds.
  • Female turtles swim back to the beach on which they were born to lay eggs every 2 to 3 years.
  • Males migrate annually from the mating areas to the feeding grounds.
  • Sea turtles have a very low natural survival rate: only 1 in 1,000 turtles will make it to adulthood.
  • Marine turtles may display multiple paternities and a single clutch of eggs may have as many as five fathers. This is due to the ability of female turtles to store sperm in their oviducts until ovulation.

Learn More About Sea Turtles

Olive ridley sea turtle hatchling leaving the nest life cycle of turtles
An Olive ridley sea turtle hatchling leaving the nest ©Susie Gibson

Read more about sea turtles and sea turtle biology or download the booklet Marine Turtle of the Maldives, A Field Identification Guide.

Six out of seven species of sea turtles are threatened with extinction. Learn about threats to sea turtles here.

You can also find out more about the turtle conservation work carried out by the Olive Ridley Project in Maldives.

Sea Turtles of the Maldives

Meet some if the sea turtles we have identified in the Maldives as part of our Turtle Photo-ID project. The most abundant sea turtle in the Maldives is the hawksbill turtle, however, certain reefs have turned out to be green turtle hot spots!