Check out the hit song of the 2021 summer, "Lightsss" by Miss Murtle and her friends (aka our awesome summer interns). Check it out below and feel free to share!
Blog Post By: Ashlyn, Sea Turtle Intern
This season, countless campers, vacationers, volunteers, and friends of the turtle patrol have gotten to witness the miracles of both mature loggerhead sea turtles emerging onto land to nest and hatchlings emerging from the sand to make their first crawl back to the ocean. It is the process we don’t necessarily get a chance to witness, however, that is the most miraculous of all in my sight. In those 45-60 days of incubation, in between the time a clutch of eggs is laid and the baby turtles hatch, that embryonic development occurs. That clutch of eggs goes from shell and yolk to a fully formed turtle in less than two months. That in itself is something to marvel over! But what exactly is occurring in that short period of time?
The embryonic development of sea turtles can be broken into 31 unique and complex stages! These 31 stages, however, can be categorized into five overall developmental processes.
1. Fertilization—Gastrulation—Early Neurulation
After fertilization has occurred, the zygote forms a blastocyst, a multilayered cluster of cells. Reorganization of this cell cluster occurs quickly, as cells move along a central line termed the primitive streak, folding to form three primary dermal layers: the endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm. Neurulation initiates in this early stage of development, as cells fold to prepare for the head and spinal cord development.
The neural tube, the precursor of the spinal cord region develops at this stage. The head, brain, heart, and blood vessels begin to develop. Specialized precursor cells called somites begin to form clusters. These somites will eventually differentiate into important structures within the body such as muscles, skin, cartilage, and vertebrae.
The embryonic cell layers become more complex during this stage, giving rise to tissues and organs.
4. Early Growth
All the major bodily organs and systems continue to grow and develop. The limbs, ribs, carapace develop.
5. Late growth—Hatching
Growth of the organs and systems comes to completion as the developed sea turtle prepares to hatch from the chamber and emerge onto the beach. In this final embryonic development stage, pigmentation completes and the remaining nutritional yolk decreases.
I can discover and mark a sea turtle nest in May and watch the hatchlings emerge in July. But digging deeper, understanding the mechanism for developmental transformation, allows me to gain an even greater appreciation for the circle of life that I have been a witness to all summer long. Perhaps science and miracles go hand in hand.
We had our first nest inventory program on Wednesday August 4th and it was a huge success! We had a large crowd close to 200 individuals that we were able to spread out so everyone could see us. We inventoried two nests to determine the nest success. These nests had emerged four days prior. We then counted the hatched eggs, unhatched eggs and on occasions also find live hatchlings. We rooted for one tired looking hatchling as it made it's way into the ocean.
Then on our way back to the office building for one last inventory, we had nest 72 about to emerge! We did not have to wait long and over a hundred hatchlings emerged and made their mad dash to the ocean!
We finished the program with one more nest inventory! I was continually asked how often that happens where we also get to witness a nest emerge...and that is a first! I definitely cannot promise any future programs to have this many hatchlings seen but you never know what you may see on one of our programs!
Check out below for more information on our nest inventory programs.
Our last night walk of the season was a success! We witnessed 4 straggler hatchlings emerge from nest 53 as soon as we walked out onto the beach. Then we had 1 straggler found in nest 49. We continued our walk towards the inlet with the hopes of witnessing an adult nesting. There were no adults found but we did witness a full nest emerge with possible over a hundred hatchlings making their way to the ocean!
Our night walks have come to an end this season! We are grateful for the help of our interns and volunteers who have helped to make them happen. I also want to thank all of our participants for their passion for sea turtles and our program!
The following morning we found one new nest and for nests that had emerged! See below for pictures taken during the dawn patrol.
Our Thursday night walk was a success! We witnessed nest 58 "boil" when the hatchlings emerged all together and headed to the ocean! We walked towards the inlet with the hopes of seeing a nesting adult but unfortunately none were found. There was another nest that was ready to emerge but it was already 12am. A few of our groups witnessed this nest emerge and the rest took the long walk back to the WIFI room, excited to have seen hatchlings.
The following morning, we found that 5 nests emerged! No new adult crawls were found.
Sea Turtle Biologist