Posted by admin | 04.10.2013 | Sea Turtle Camp News

Leatherback Nest Excavation: Sea Turtle Camp Costa Rica

DSCF0610With the careful flick of her back flippers a female leatherback sea turtle carefully digs an egg chamber into the warm dark sand of a Costa Rican beach. Once satisfied, she deposits her clutch of 50-90 golf ball sized leathery eggs along with 20 or so spacer eggs which are infertile and keep the other eggs from being crushed. After nesting is complete she begins the process of covering and camouflaging her nesting site before returning to the ocean.

Leatherbacks incubate approximately 60 days and at the end of their gestation the hatchlings use a temporary egg tooth called a caruncle to break free of the shell. For the next 3 to 7 days the cluster of newborns work together passing sand from the top of the nest down to the bottom, allowing them to rise as a group to the surface.


Once they breach the surface instinct compels them to seek out the bright horizon over the ocean. The only remnant of their “stay” is a sunken pit and hundreds of tiny tracks marching toward the waterline.

Sometimes not all the turtle hatchlings are able to make it out of the nest on their own. All the movement in the egg chamber directly after hatchling causes some to inadvertently become reburied causing fatigue, dehydration, and disorientations.

DSCF0620In addition to watching these magnificent creatures come ashore to nest, campers attending Sea Turtle Camp Costa Rica will join scientists in excavating leatherback sea turtle nests three days after the natural hatching. Students will assist in removing and counting unhatched and broken eggs along with handling the live hatchlings that remain. Unhatched eggs are checked for fertility and stage of development while live hatchlings are usually released after dusk.

DSCF0411Evaluating the content of each nest allow us to gather important statistical information on which determines the hatch and emergence rate of the nest. When this information is then added to the International Sea Turtle Database scientist can better outlines the hatch success of each season worldwide.

Can you imagine the feeling of holding a brand new baby leather back sea turtle in your hands?

Come experience the world in a different light, be part of something bigger, join Sea Turtle Camp Costa Rica!