It is exciting to see a sea turtle, they are a rare sight. A little less rare in the Galapagos.
During our visit we saw them swimming near the boat, while snorkeling and during a walk near a mating area.
4 Species of Sea Turtles in Galapagos
There are four species of marine/sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands:
- Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)
- Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
- Leatherback (Dermochelys coriaccea)
- Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)
The most common sea turtle, and the only one to breed, in the Galapagos Islands is the black turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizi,) a distinct form of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas.)
You will not see the black turtles on land very often because they normally only come on land to lay their eggs. This usually happens at nighttime every two to three years between December – June. The female may come on land up to 8 times during a 2 week period.
After making her way across a sandy beach, she digs a hole with her hind flippers and lays from 80 to 120 ping-pong ball sized eggs. After she is done, she covers her eggs with sand. All that digging takes around an hour and a half, not to mention how long it takes her to lay the eggs. It must be refreshing to be back in the water.
A Rough Start To Life
The babies will hatch after two months and usually dig their way out of the nest at nighttime. If they come out during the day, they can’t easily find their way to the water because the sun (temporarily) blinds them. If this happens, they are easy prey for birds and other predators.
Hatching is the Most Dangerous Time
They are very vulnerable to birds, crabs and other predators on the beach.
Once in the water they have a better chance of survival but are still preyed on by sharks, crabs and orcas.
While still in the egg the beetle Trox suberosus can also pray on them. Seems like there are a lot of things working against them, this may be another reason it’s so exciting to see one.
It’s interesting to note that the temperature of the nest influences the sex of the turtles. If the temperature is over 30 Celsius the eggs produce females if it is below that there are more males.
Sea turtles are beautiful and look fascinating as they “fly” through the water.
Have you every swam with a sea turtle? Please tell us about it by commenting on this post.