Last weekend, our beaches encountered rough weather due to remnants of
Hurricane Tropical Storm Erika. We had many concerned Facebook fans reach out to us about exposed sea turtle nests and eggs.
Our research team reported the following information as of August 31, 2015.
So far we have lost approximately 1,044 loggerhead nests and 128 green nests due to the high surf caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika. The surf kicked up on Sunday and remains high. There is the possibility that we will lose some more nests in the next day or so.
Don’t worry. There is good news. When looking at our total numbers for this season, this is a very low percentage of lost nests. With the record year that we have had, this season will still produce a very high number of hatchlings (our favorites)!
Turtles are used to dealing with natural events like storms. This why they lay so many nests and spread them across space and time. The things people should be most concerned about are the detrimental human impacts that the turtles are not used to dealing with. Things like filling in holes on the beach, and removing/picking up trash are easy ways people can help turtles (and many other species)!
Now for the questions…
• Can the eggs be collected and incubated?
The hatching success for sea turtle eggs once they have been exposed to sunlight, inundated with water and/or rotated is very low. The developing embryo will detach from the side of the eggshell and not properly develop. Nest relocations are permitted on a case by case basis by FWC. We also do not want to favor the nests laid very low on the beach, as this is would be against natural selection.
• Is this why once the mama nests, the eggs have to remain upright otherwise they will detach?
Yes, once the eggs are deposited by the female turtle they need to remain in the same orientation throughout their incubation (about 2 months). Any jostling or turning of the egg could cause the embryo to detach from the wall of the eggshell.
• Do hurricanes/tropical storms have an effect on the mamas coming ashore to nest?
Turtles can either come ashore before or after a storm to lay their eggs since they can hold their eggs for up to a few days. However, if they do come ashore during a storm and find a dry part of the beach, they will lay their nest. Luckily, the majority of the nesting on our coast is finished by the time hurricane season comes around. Also, the most frequent nesting turtle that we see during hurricane season is the green turtle, since they lay from about June-Sept. Green turtles tend to lay their nests closer to the dune vegetation, which could be an evolutionary adaptation to keep their nests safe from hurricanes and high surf.
• Are you able to allow the turtles at the center to lay eggs to help with the loss of eggs on the beach?
Most of the turtles that we have at the center in our hospital are not old enough to lay nests. Any sexually mature females that we do have in the hospital are sick. Therefore, their energy is dedicated to recovering from their injuries instead of reproducing. The loss of eggs on the beach due to tropical storms is a natural phenomenon, which the turtles compensate for by laying many nests throughout the season on different parts of the beach (or different beaches). The number of nests that were lost due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika are actually quite minute compared to the total number of nests that were laid on our beaches this year.
Special thanks to LMC’s research team for answering these questions for us!