20. Leaving the nest area

It is still dark and very early in the morning: the hatchlings are heading away from the nest down towards the sea. Huddled together they begin to 'wiggle' down the beach.

Extract from a lecture by the President of MEDASSET - Lily Venizelos

A sudden drop in temperature, usually at sunset, at night, or in the early dawn hours, or even after a sudden shower, activates the baby turtles to leave the nest and they immediately scramble out on to the surface of the beach. This emergence into life is a second hatching. The babies which are the first to be activated transmit the information to the rest by their movements. If the activation is delayed and evacuation of the nest begins when the sand has been heated by the sun, this same mechanism can operate in reverse to deactivate the nest. The babies stay under the surface waiting for the next activation. If, however, man should intervene to activate the nest, even when the sand is hot, the evacuation will start immediately, and if this happens during a hot day the hatchlings are doomed to perish under the hot sun.
Little snouts poke up through the sand, suddenly, where they are not expected, pushing up and sprouting like black mushrooms. The babies are 4-5 centimetres long and grey-black in colour. As soon as they leave the sand, they begin a crazy rush towards the sea. Hundreds of hatchlings pour out wildly in every direction and run and run.
Perhaps it is not only instinct which leads the small turtles so surely towards the sea. There are two main reasons why they are guided on the correct path towards the sea: the slope of the beach and the light on the horizon in the centre of their field of view. In the same way the mother turtles find their way back to the sea after nesting.

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