Sea Turtle Nesting
Habits and cautions for the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico
The beaches along the Caribbean Coast of Mexico and especially in Akumal, are nesting grounds for two endangered species of sea turtles: the Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) and the Green sea turtle (Chelonia Mydas). Nesting season for these turtles is May through October. After mating at sea the female turtle swims to shore to dig a nest for her eggs. It is not unusual to see turtles nesting at night on the beaches of Akumal. If you should see a turtle at night please do not disturb or shine a flashlight on it as this may disrupt their reproductive cycle. Female turtles dig their nests on the beach with their flippers, then lay their eggs and cover them with sand. They then crawl back to the surf zone and swim out to sea. After 50 - 60 days the baby turtles hatch from the nests and try to make their way through the surf zone and out to sea.
Watch your step
Caution should be exercised when walking the nesting beaches in order to avoid trampling nests where eggs are incubating. Avoid stepping on mounds in the sand or anywhere that you see sticks with markers pushed into the sand. The Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) actively participates in a sea turtle protection program. A restricted and watched hatchery area has been created to better protect some of the nests of eggs, thus producing a higher yield upon hatching. To witness such an event is amazing, but if you happen to miss turtle season, CEA offers a slide presentation weekly on sea turtles. Addition printed material is also available about sea turtles.
Turtles are reptiles, a class of vertebrate animals that has survived for more than 200 million years, through stable periods and times of extreme environmental change. Reptiles evolved from amphibians, an even earlier class of vertebrates that lives on both land and in fresh water. Over time, the reptiles came to dominate the Earth; on land, in fresh water and the seas, and in the air. But it was early in the history of reptiles that turtles, members of the order Chelonia split from the main line of reptilian evolution.
The origin of chelonians is uncertain, but recognizable turtles are known as far back as the Triassic period, at least 180 million years ago when dinosaurs were becoming the dominant land animals. Although the Triassic turtles did not look very much different from some modern ones, closer examination would have revealed some characteristics absent from turtles living today. For example, some of the earliest known turtles had teeth rather than sharp edged jaws. Much later, towards the end of the Cretaceous period over 65 million years ago, turtles as large as the 3 meter (9 feet 10 inches) Archelon ischyros lived in the shallow sea that covered much of what is now the western United States.
The fossil record and chemical evidence in some rocks show that the Earth underwent some drastic changes about 65 million years ago which resulted in the extinction of many groups of organisms on land and sea, including the dinosaurs. But some groups of turtles survived these changes, and two suborders remain. One includes the side-necked turtles that retract their necks into their shells with a sideways motion. Turtles in the other more diverse suborder, which includes sea turtles, retract their necks straight in. The sea turtles of today belong to two families, the Dermochelyidae, which has a single species, the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea); and the Cheloniidae, which has two subfamiles, each with two genera and three species. The subfamily Chelonini includes Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), flatback turtles (Chelonia depressa), and Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). The subfamily Carettini includes Loggerhead turtles (Carette caretta), Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Kemp's Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii). Although sea turtles have not changed much for a long time, the slow process of evolution will continue unless we, through neglect, cause them to become extinct.
Source: Oceanic Resource Foundation.
Centro Ecologico Akumal - CEA
Established in July of 1993, CEA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the ecologically sustainable development of the Cancun-Tulum corridor. CEA promotes conservation of the natural habitat and native culture through research and education. CEA learn more