The Energetic of the Digging Activity of Sea Turtle Hatchlings during Nest Escape

As sea turtle embryos and hatchlings receive no parental care other than nest site selection, their survival rate to adulthood is estimated to be no more than 1:1000. Energy reserves play a key factor in determining a hatchling’s survival during its early life, which is the most critical phase in its life cycle. From digging to escape the nest, to crawling towards the ocean and swimming to pelagic nursery habitats, a turtle hatchling’s fate depends significantly on this energy reserve. Quantifying the energy needed by hatchlings to escape their nest could assist hatcheries to develop techniques that may minimize the energy expenditure during this process and hence produce fitter hatchlings with higher chances for survival.

In addition to the energy reserve, digging efforts are also affected by the type of substrate of the nest chamber. SEATRU’s preliminary research indicates that coarse sand reduces the digging duration and results in faster nest emergence. Thus means less energy is needed to escape the nest, and therefore more energy is left for crawling down the beach and the initial swimming frenzy, essentially increasing the hatchling’s chances to escape from the gauntlet of predators on the beach and in the shallow near-shore waters.

Residue yolk attached at the hatchling’s abdomen

Experimental set-up for digging activity