Theory:

We have seen tortoises in a zoo or a park. But, most of us would not have seen a sea turtle.
 
turtle.jpg
 
Is the sea turtle different from tortoise? Yes. They are relatives but not the same. Why most of us would not have seen a sea turtle? Because these reptiles (a species of animals that have scaly skin and lay soft-shelled eggs on the land; includes lizards, crocodiles also) live their entire life in the sea.
  
There are seven different types of marine or sea turtles in the world. Out of seven, five are found in our Indian seas. They are:
  • The Olive Ridley - the smallest species, most common - 35 kgs when fully grown.
  • The Hawksbill
  • The Green Sea Turtle
  • The Loggerhead
  • The Leatherback - the largest species - 700 kgs and 2.2 metres in length.
Sea turtles are much bigger than most tortoises. They live their life fully in oceans - but they come to land (shore) to lay eggs. Of the above five species, four have become rare species in India. The most common ones are the Olive Ridleys, which can be still seen on all sandy beaches along our coasts.
 
How do female Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs?
  • When - January to March
  • Time - Night
  • Where - On the shore
  • Problem - Difficult to move with their front flippers on land (though it can swim easily without any effort in the water). It has to pull and drag itself with great effort on to the sandy beach.
  • How - It chooses a spot far from the place where there are high tides. It makes a hollow space 45cm deep and lays about \(100\) eggs.
  • Eggs - Shape and size of a tennis ball.
  • After laying the eggs, the turtle closes the hollow space. Then it hides the nest according to the surroundings, by tossing sand on it, with the help of its flippers. Nobody can find the spot now because the whole place looks the same now!
  • Then the turtle returns to the sea.
  • The eggs will hatch under the warmth of the sun.
atlantic-ridley-sea-turtle-1402157_1280.jpg
 
In many places around the world, local people follow the turtle's footsteps and find the way to its nest, take away the eggs for eating. Other animals follow the scent left behind by the turtle - jackals, domestic dogs and pigs dig up the holes and eat the eggs. Some eggs escape from the animals that eat other animals. These eggs will open after 45-60 days. The young animal that hatches out from an egg is called a hatchling. The hatchlings have a sharp razor-like blade at the pointed end of its nose, called "egg-tooth". With the help of the blade, it slits open the leathery shell of the eggs. After most of the eggs hatch, the young turtles push themselves up to come out of the sand. From there, they quickly move to the sea.
 
turtle eggs .jpg
 
The tiny hatchlings weigh less than 20 grams each. Many of them do not even reach the sea, as they have to fight their predators - crabs, birds may eat them. If they cross this hurdle and reach the sea, most of them will be eaten by predators in the sea, within the first few days of their lives. So many challenges for a turtle! Scientists have estimated that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings become an adult. Even if \(1\) survived from \(1000\) eggs, the species is still surviving - how? That is why the turtles lay hundreds of eggs, maybe!
 
 hatchlings.jpg
 
There is a very interesting fact about female turtles - the female hatchlings that survive all the predators and become adults swim for many years in the open ocean. They return to the same beach where they were born, to lay their own eggs. How do they manage to find the spot by themselves without anyone guiding them, is a mystery of these wonderful reptiles.
 
Sea turtles are one of the most wonderful creatures on our earth. They have faced so many natural predators for millions of years - but still, they have managed to survive. But humans are also affecting their survival lately, almost for the past fifty years. Humans have put the survival of turtles in a serious danger. There are factors affecting their survival:
  1. Humans hunt them for meat.
  2. Humans collect their eggs.
  3. Accidentally gets trapped in motorboat nests.
  4. Pollution.
  5. Disposing plastics carelessly in the ocean.
  6. Construction activities where turtles lay eggs.
We should systematically tackle these problems and remove the activities that threaten the survival to ensure that turtles will continue to live with us in the future.
 
Meanings of difficult words:
 

Words

Meanings

Reptiles

Scaly animals, that lay soft-shelled eggs.

Marine

Found in the sea.

Species

Group of animals with common features.

Coastal

Land near the edge of the sea, seashore.

Flippers

Broad, flat limbs used for swimming.

Haul

Pull or drag with force.

Laboriously

Takes considerable time and effort

Cavity

A hollow space.

Camouflages

Hide or disguise to blend with the surroundings.

Incubate

Hatch eggs using warmth.

Predators

Animals that eat other animals.

Hatchlings

Young animal that hatches out from an egg.

Slash

Slit or cut open.

Snout

Pointed edge of a nose.

Emerge

Come out.

Dash

Run or travel in a hurry.

Fascinating

Extremely interesting.

Grave

Serious.

Decade

A period of \(10\) years.

Survive

Continue to live.

Reference:
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-1 English Standard-6. Sea Turtles - Shekar Dattatri (pp. 86-92). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.