The 75 sea turtle nests that were laid on Seabrook Island this season have contained over 8500 eggs. With these high numbers comes the chance of an occasional genetic abnormality or egg production mishap. During this season’s inventories, the Turtle Patrol has occasionally run into these oddities, including spacer eggs, chain-form eggs, and even a leucistic turtle!
Nest 43 contained at least one tiny egg with no yolk, commonly referred to as a “spacer,” as well as a chain-form egg that was at one point linked by its shell material to another egg. Spacer eggs are more commonly seen in leatherback nests, but in loggerhead nests they sometimes signal issues within the turtle’s reproductive system.
During our inventory of nest 59, we identified an unhatched egg that contained a leucistic loggerhead turtle that did not fully develop. Leucism is a reduced, but not complete, lack of pigmentation. “Piebald” animals, like some of the deer here on Seabrook Island, are leucistic. It’s not a very useful trait for a sea turtle, as you might imagine, since it makes them highly non-cryptic in their environment. The chances of survival for these hatchlings are even more slim than usual but there have been leucistic adults observed in the wild! While our leucistic turtle never emerged from its egg, our neighbors on Kiawah had a live leucistic hatchling last season!
This Week’s Nest Inventories
To view this week’s inventory results, click here.
-Submitted by Joshua Shilko
(Leucistic Hatchling Image Credit: Town of Kiawah)