Sea Turtle Mating Activity is Heating Up
Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) will soon be congregating offshore of our islands and mating will be in full swing. An interesting characteristic of sea turtle reproduction is that females may mate more than once in a single season, and they have the ability to store sperm. This means that a single nest may produce hatchlings with more than one father.
While genetic variability is an important aspect for fitness and survivorship of a species, studies detailing multiple paternity have not found overwhelming evidence to suggest that this behavior is beneficial in terms of nest productivity, such as hatch success. While multiple paternity has been observed in sea turtles across the globe, studies detailing different populations have found varying incidence of nests having more than one father. How readily this occurs varies by region and population, with many scientific theories indicating that it may have much to do with the size and distribution of the breeding population, which can influence the number of mating interactions a male can have with multiple females.
Typically, loggerheads will migrate from their foraging and wintering grounds to areas offshore of their nesting beaches, such as Sanibel, in March and April. Some of our satellite-tracked loggerheads will be making their journey from waters surrounding the Keys, Bahamas, and Cuba. Once they arrive at their Sanibel breeding grounds, males will begin to court females, clawing and biting at their flippers, carapace, and neck. Successful courtship and mating can be a long process and has been observed at the surface and underwater. Turtles locked together during mating have been observed inadvertently washed up on the beach.
Once April arrives, SCCF’s team of patrols will begin early morning surveys to document and mark nests, some of which may have one, two, or many fathers!