Turtles are a charming and diverse group of creatures that are relatively easy to care for, but definitely not the easiest to breed. However, with a little effort and care, you can also get your own group of baby turtles. Here, you will read about how do turtles mate and breed.
Home Is Where The Heart Is!
Female turtles return to the same nesting area or beach where they were born to lay eggs, even if they have been away for 30 years after being born there!
Turtles have been around for more than 220 million years. They are solitary reptiles that glide smoothly and remain submerged in the sea for most of the time, except in the mating and nesting seasons when they move to the shore. Also, they migrate hundreds or thousands of miles.
They can have a hard time adapting to the environment when in captivity and tend to become aggressive.
The reproduction process is what has kept the species of sea turtles alive till date.
The age for maturity varies from one species to another. They come out of hibernation between the months of March and May. Males reach reproductive maturity when they are 5 years and females between 4 - 7 years. Most of the turtles don't breed until fall.
How Do Turtles Mate?
It is said that courtship and mating in turtles occur mostly for a limited period when the female turtles are receptive. It usually occurs during the months of March and June, if they are in the sea.
However, in captivity, they may try to mate all year round. The mating varies depending on the species of the turtles. In some species, males are larger than females, and in some, females are larger than the males.
During the mating season, the male turtle can be seen wooing the female by nudging her head or gently biting the back of her neck and rear flippers. He may even swim backwards in front of her with the front legs extended outwards with the nails fluttering quickly in her face.
The female may tend to flee if she doesn't like the male, and if she does, the male attaches himself to the back of the female's shell, gripping it with his claws. He then folds his tail under her shell to mate. The female may mate with several males before the nesting period.
Nesting and Incubation
► After a few weeks of mating, the female goes to the seashore where she was born and digs a nest in order to lay her eggs. They may travel hundreds of miles to reach their nesting beach. This itself is an incredible act of nature.
► Depending on the species, the female may lay about 50 - 200 eggs in one clutch. Some may even lay 3 - 4 clutches in one season if the conditions are right for them.
► Most of the species of female turtles return to the sea to mate and nest. They can do this 2 - 3 times during the whole mating season.
► The female covers the nest with sand using her flippers so that her eggs stay protected from predators, and also, so that it stays moist.
► The incubation period of the eggs is about 70 - 90 days, depending on the species of the turtle. The eggs are flexible, which protects them from breaking when they fall into the nest. The eggs are the shape of ping-pong balls. So next time you spot a turtle egg on the beach don't mistake it for a ping-pong ball and start playing!
► It is believed that if the nesting takes place in colder temperatures, the offspring will be males. And in warmer temperatures, the offspring will mostly be females.
► After the female turtle lays her eggs and goes back, she may never return to check back or associate with her offspring.
► When breeding a pet turtle, make sure that you separate the males and females as they tend to get aggressive during the nesting period. Also ensure that you provide enough and clean space for the females to lay eggs. Maintain the temperature within the nest.
Hatching of Eggs
Hatching of the eggs occurs 70 - 90 days after the female lays them. The hatchlings cut the egg shell with "egg tooth."
It is basically the upper jaw extending that tends to fall off soon after birth. They usually burst out open at night or during a rainstorm when the temperature is much cooler. They emerge out of their nests in groups and dash towards the sea.
However, they have to face many obstacles before they can reach the sea. Many of them tend to die because of their inability to get out of their shells. If they don't reach the seashore quickly, they may become food for birds or crabs. Some may die due to dehydration in the sun.
Even in the oceans, there are obstacles. Some may get caught in seaweeds or strong currents and some become food to bigger aquatic animals like sharks. Only about 10% of the hatched baby turtles make it to adulthood, overcoming all the obstacles.
► If you are breeding pet turtles, enough care should be taken. Once mating is done, separate the males from the females to avoid the repercussions of the aggressive behavior of females. They may even bite off each other's heads.
► Create a nesting area deep enough for the female turtle to lay eggs, and make sure that the soil is moist.
► Maintain proper temperature and environment for them to mate and nest. The ideal temperature for the eggs should be around 75 - 85°F. If you notice the nest drying up, add a little water.
► After hatching, keep the baby turtles in shallow water, separate from the adults.
► Separate the hatchlings from other eggs as they may bite each other while searching for food.
► They are fragile, little creatures on whom you will require to keep a constant watch and their food habits as well, so that they do not get sick. Feed them adequate amount of food at least once a day.
This was the basic breeding process of turtles. If you want to breed pet turtles, seek advice from professionals so that you don't make mistakes.