SAND AND SEA
patches, they drift with the ocean current. They are also feeding
off of plankton and small fish. They’re in these patches
until they reach juvenile size, about the size of a dinner plate.
They migrate to more shallow, coastal areas, once they have
grown to a size where they are less likely to be predated on.”
As they develop, sea turtles migrate for thousands of miles
as they journey across the ocean to return home. They use the
Earth’s geomagnetic field as an address system, as if they had
their own built-in compass.
“Sea turtles are born pretty much with an understanding of
magnetic fields,” Guertin says. “We don’t know 100 percent
exactly how they’re doing this. We’ve seen that birds can migrate
via magnetic fields and turtles can, too. It makes sense
because they’re doing these trans-Atlantic journeys. They’re
using the magnetic field of the Earth to navigate themselves.”
“That’s another reason why we should leave hatchlings
alone on the beach,” Bergman advises. “We don’t know exactly
when they are setting that home location. So somewhere
when they’re developing to when they’re reaching the water,
they are imprinting the beach of where it is. That way they
know that this is home, and one day they’re going to return
here to lay their eggs.”
Sea turtles become sexually mature between 15 and 30
years. When they are ready to mate, they journey along
migration routes between feeding areas and nesting beaches.
After their eggs have been fertilized, females return to their
birthplace to nest, where a new life cycle miraculously begins.
Residents and visitors on the Treasure Coast have the opportunity
to get up close and learn firsthand about sea turtle
Mature green sea turtles
are herbivores and eat
a steady diet of seagrass
OUR SEA TURTLES
nesting. During the summer, a number of local organizations
offer guided turtle walks at night to educate the public and
build awareness about these fascinating creatures. Registration
for most walks begins on May 1 and can be accessed online.
If those who attend are lucky enough to witness a nesting
turtle, they should make sure to stay with the guide at all
times. Onlookers will be able to watch the turtle from behind,
so as not to disturb the egg-laying process.
“Turtles don’t have great peripheral vision,” Maline says.
“As long as we’re reasonably behind her, she won’t be able to
see us. It’s really easy to see the eggs that way.”