Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins

Image courtesy Edisto Chamber of Commerce
Loggerhead sea turtles return to the beaches of the South Atlantic coast each year in late spring to begin nesting. The annual Lights Out campaign runs from May 1 – October 31 in order to encompass all of nesting season which can extend into August, and the roughly 60 days it takes for eggs to hatch. Each barrier island has a team of volunteers ready to walk the beach each morning in search of turtle tracks and to document when and where a sea turtle makes her nest. The first loggerhead nest in South Carolina this year came on May 8, right in the Lowcountry on Dafuskie Island near Hilton Head.
It’s worth noting that the first S.C. loggerhead nest of 2018 is confirmed in the South Lowcountry, because most years the first nest is in the northern range along Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge. The second loggerhead sea turtle nest came the next day on May 9 on Kiawah Island. Cooler than normal water temperatures due to the prolonged spring may have delayed nesting season for a few days, but now that the weather has become more tropical it is time for increased nesting behavior. 

Witnessing a large 300-pound loggerhead sea turtle at night on the beach is an experience that triggers an emotional response for some. Their ancient cycle of life continues to succeed using only a ribbon of beach for nesting, and then spending the remainder of their life in the open ocean. As technology evolves, scientists are using DNA extracted from eggshells to track generations of female loggerheads that return to specific beaches over time. When the sea turtle hatchlings emerge from the nest, they are ingrained on that particular beach, giving them a place they can call home if and when they return to nest as a mature sea turtle in the future.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

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