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Approximately 300 species of turtle exist throughout the world, living in both freshwater and sea water. Turtle eggs are commonly buried in sand, mud or loamy soil that prevents the eggs from drying out during their development. Baby turtles are born on the land, but quickly find their way to the closest body of water.
Baby sea turtles hatch on the same shores where their parents and grandparents hatched. An adult female turtle returns to the nesting area where she emerged from her egg to dig a nest. Conditions are ideal for her return during March through October, when temperatures average in the 70s and 80s. Using her rear flippers, she excavates the sand to form a nest where she'll lay up to 200 eggs. The eggs hatch in six to 10 weeks, depending on the temperature. The babies find their way to the sea, sometimes ranging more than 1,000 miles away before returning to the beach where they hatched to begin the next generation.
Far From Water
Snapping turtles live on the muddy bottoms of freshwater rivers, ponds and estuaries but leave the water to lay their eggs. A female snapping turtle may travel as far as a mile from the water to deposit her eggs in well-drained soil. The eggs look like ping-pong balls and are routinely uncovered and eaten by skunks, racoons and other predators. The turtles hatch far from water and spend their early life dodging predators as they make their way to a suitable waterway to live in.
In a Billabong
While most turtle species emerge from the water to lay their eggs in sand or loam near water's edge, the Australian long-necked turtle lays its eggs underwater. The eggs are laid in the billabongs -- seasonal lakes that alternate from wet to dry. While the eggs are laid underwater during the wet season, the baby turtles do not emerge until after the waters recede. The eggs are tucked into muddy nests in shallow water and can survive more than 12 weeks underwater. The young turtles emerge from their eggs on dry land and find their way back to the water.
In Your Home
Hatch your pet turtle's eggs in a bucket of damp sand or other substrate placed in a warm area of your home. Box and water turtles require humidity of approximately 80 percent and a temperature of about 80 degrees. Hatching time averages three months, but varies according to the temperature and humidity. Before incubating your eggs, make sure the eggs are fertile by shining a bright light through the shell when you are in a dark room. You will see blood vessels at early stages of development and the dark form of an embryo as gestation progresses.
- Defenders of Wildlife: Basic Facts About Sea Turtles
- Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Some Turtles Lay Their Eggs Under Water
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Osmotic Balance in the Eggs of the Turtle Chelodina Rugosa During Developmental Arrest Under Water
- California Turtle and Tortoise Club: General Guidelines to Incubating Turtle and Tortoise Eggs
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images