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Marine Turtles: Here today, gone tomorrow?
by Henrylito D. Tacio

            This, however, does not guarantee that mating will proceed uneventfully. The drama heightens with other ardent males aggressively attacking the successful male in a bid to dislodge him from the female. The injuries are often extensive. Nesting occurs in sandy beaches about a month after mating. The turtle nesting season varies with location. In the Philippines, it starts in October, peaks in December and ends in March. For unknown reasons, turtles choose a favorite nesting site. Every time they nest, they always return to the place even if they are thousands of miles away from the area. Females would drag their bulky frames into the sand and build a nest where they eventually lay their eggs. Their nests are flask-shaped cavities which they dig by shovelling sand with their hind limbs. Nests are built in areas that are not inundated by tides, rain, or groundwater. The sand should be loose enough for gas diffusion but moist enough to keep the nest walls from collapsing. One nest may contain as many as 100 eggs. These are usually laid at night except for Kemp’s Ridley and Olive Ridley eggs, which are laid at daytime. ’’Nesting is an individual activity but undertaken simultaneously with other nesting females,’’ Calpito and Calacal write. ’’An individual ridley can delay nesting in order to wait for other nesting female ridleys.’’ 

            During the nesting season, some turtles may nest from two to 11 times, depending on the species and population. The Green turtle nests every year for 10 solid years. Others nest every two to four years. The nesting completed, the mother turtle covers and disguises the nest--apparently the only ’’maternal care’’ she will ever exhibit. Afterwards, she scampers toward the sea, leaving the eggs and future hatchlings to find their way to the sea and fend for themselves. After two months of being cocooned in their sandy niche, the papery eggshells erupt one after another or almost simultaneously. With vigorous trashing here and there, the hatchlings free themselves from their eggshells. The trashing comes to a halt and the hatchlings charge to the sea, scurrying like an army seeking cover in the darkness of night. ’’This nocturnal trek to the sea can be a critical event in the lives of young hatchlings,’’ Calpito and Calacal write. Hatchlings are fatally attracted to light and the strong lights from the beach could lure them away from the sea. When that happen, hatchlings fail to make their rendezvous with their aquatic home and they die.

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