Marine turtles reproduction facts

A week-old olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings at the Turtle Conservation and ... / ©: Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon
A week-old olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings at the Turtle Conservation and Education Center in Serangan, Bali, Indonesia. 16 July 2009
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon
Marine turtles face many challenges in life, courtesy of their natural environment, predators and humans. They spend most of their life in the water and females only come ashore to lay eggs during the nesting season.
Turtle reproduction – many offspring, few survivors

Marine turtles appear to have the potential to reproduce abundantly: females can lay hundreds of eggs in one nesting season. But even under natural conditions, relatively few young turtles survive their first year of life.

Scientists studying marine turtles believe that of every 1,000 eggs laid, as few as one hatchling will survive to adulthood to breed itself.1

Habitat and ecology

Many marine turtle species spend much of their life in continental shelf waters.

Males never leave the sea and females only come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. During the nesting season, mature males and females migrate from feeding grounds to mate near the nesting beach.

Life cycle

Once hatchlings exit the nest and reach the sea, they hurriedly swim to open ocean zones where currents meet. Here, they seek food and refuge from their many predators.

Only after marine turtles have become adults do they return to the beaches where they were born to lay their own eggs.


1. Dobbs, K (2001). Marine Turtles in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: a compendium of information and basis for the development of policies and strategies for the conservation of marine turtles. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland (available at http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/1971/marine_turtles.pdf)