What weighs over two thousand pounds, is over six feet long, and lives on an exclusive diet of jellyfish? It’s the Leatherback Sea Turtle, and right now hundreds of them are slowly crawling up onto remote tropical beaches to lay their eggs. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
January is prime time for Leatherback Turtles to nest on the Pacific beaches of Costa Rica. Here’s what’ll happen there at high tide tonight, according to Stephen Morreale of Cornell University:
“The first turtles start coming out immediately. You walk, oh, I’d say about a hundred yards or so, you’d run into this big, what looks like a huge black rock, walking out of the waves. You realize it was moving and coming up the beach and then you’re trying to finally figure out, once you’ve got your night vision adjusted, that this is a huge, huge sea turtle coming out of the surf, looking for a spot to lay her eggs.”
“If you’re really lucky, you may see up to forty or fifty turtles on the beach in a night. It’s an amazing sight.”
Once she finds a good nesting site, the female starts digging, throwing sand with her flippers. Then she puts her tail right over the hole and lays as many as one hundred eggs.
“When they’re done laying their eggs, they cover up and that takes anywhere up to a half an hour or more, depending on the turtle. And then they turn around and go back in the water.”
In the water, the female turtle will find a male to mate with, and then ten days later, crawl onto the beach and begin the whole process again. She may nest up to eleven times in one season.
In our next program, we’ll follow the baby Leatherback Turtles as they hatch. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.