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3 min read

Why do sea turtles cry when they lay eggs?

By ralucabgdn

Maybe you discovered, just I did when I watch a documentary about sea turtles, that they seem to cry when they lay eggs on the land. You can see tears in their eyes when they lay eggs. This fact surprised me, and I start wondering, Why do sea turtles cry when they lay eggs?



Although it appears that sea turtles cry when they lay eggs, they don't. It indeed seems like they cry, but they flush sand and salt from their eyes. Sea turtles have a gland in each eye that helps them to maintain the right balance of salt in their bodies. This gland is called a "Salt Gland".


What Is A "Salt Gland"?


They live in salt water, and their kidneys are less efficient than the ones mammals have; therefore, turtles cannot produce urine with a higher concentration of salt than the seawater they drink regularly. And those glands we were talking about previously, situated in their eyes, help them to avoid poisoning themselves with salt buildup.

Do you wonder how they do so? Through the tears produced, the glands pump salt ions into their tears. So, if you were wondering, just I did, Why do sea turtles cry when they lay eggs, now you have found the answer. They are not emotional tears, but a natural response of their organism, to keep the right balance of salt in the body.

Also, I found out through my research that they don't cry only when they lay eggs, but also in water. They appear to do so only on land because it is the only time when we can discover this, observing them more closely than in the sea. But the truth is that they are doing so all the time, being a natural and healthy process for them.

 

How does a sea turtle lay eggs?



A sea turtle will lay eggs only on the shore. In the last weeks of gestation, the turtle will come to the land and use its legs to dig a nest, in which it will deposit the eggs. Therefore, in those weeks, she will spend more time on the land and less time in the sea. The process of finding the perfect spot for laying the eggs is complex and requires time. They prefer a sunny spot with sandy soil to make an adequate nest for their babies. An interesting fact that I found out is that, if the weather is too warm, the sea turtle delays the process of digging the nest for a few days or even weeks, until the weather is suitable for laying the eggs, colder. Also, scientists have discovered that turtles use to lay eggs in the same time and place every time. The nesting process takes up to a few hours, and after the eggs are laid, the sea turtle's job as a mother is finished. She will get back in the water, letting the babies survive on their on from now on.


Can turtle lay eggs without mating?


A female sea turtle can lay eggs without being fertilized by a male. Those infertile eggs will not hatch. The process of laying eggs for wild turtles is natural, and they will do it, no matter if they mate with a male or not. Usually, they lay eggs in the spring, as a response to the temperature rise and light cycle changes. The environment dictates when it is the perfect time for laying eggs. But you should know that this is the case only for wild turtles, which are affected by climate change. This is why in the warm seasons, it is common to see sea turtles laying eggs on the beach. In the case of pet turtles, this rule does not apply because they have a steady climate, and their environment does not change dramatically, to provoke a natural response for laying eggs. The pet turtles can lay eggs all year round.

 

 

It might be an emotional response to motherhood, or maybe they are in pain? I just needed to find the reasons. So, I have begun researching this subject, and I found out interesting facts about this weird behavior. Let's find out more.


1 Response

Cara Reid
Cara Reid

June 10, 2020

I never knew they cried when they laid eggs and I’m also glad to hear that the sea turtles are not upset when they are doing the crying, it’s just a natural process.

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