Hatching of endangered leatherback sea turtles captured on video by beachgoer

Rick Bryant happened to be walking along Vero Beach, Florida, when he noticed a slight movement in the sand. He started recording on his cell phone, and he's glad he did. "This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen," he wrote on his Facebook page, along with posting the video.

Emerging from the sand were baby leatherback sea turtles, lots of them. It’s the largest turtle species on Earth, yet these newly born turtles were no bigger than the palm of your hand, and they seemed to hatch dozens at a time.

Watch as the spot of sand turns into an explosion of tiny leatherback sea turtles, numbering upwards of 80 or more. One only needs to watch the first two minutes to see the main hatch, but several more emerge throughout the seven-minute video, which also features the tiny turtles making their way toward the water (warning for a couple of minor expletives):

"I can't believe we got here for this," Bryant says on the video. "Look at them all.

"I seen the dirt moving and next thing I know, they're popping out like crazy."

Indeed, the tiny turtles just kept coming. The guys guessed about 50, but it is said that leatherback sea turtles can lay as many as 80 eggs.

Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller indicated it could be as many as 100 eggs.

"The coast of Florida is an extremely important area for sea turtle nesting, the East Coast is on of the most important sea turtle nesting areas in the world," he told GrindTV Outdoor in an email. "Clutch sizes vary by species and size of animals but often are 100 or so." turtle in hand 2

Bryant, who is from Melbourne, Florida, jokes about selling the video to National Geographic. That probably won't happen. But here's what NatGeo has to say about the leatherneck sea turtle:

After mating at sea, females come ashore during the breeding season to nest. The nighttime ritual involves excavating a hole in the sand, depositing around 80 eggs, filling the nest, leaving a large, disturbed area of sand that makes detection by predators difficult, and finally returning to the sea. […]

 

Leatherbacks are currently designated as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The number of leatherbacks in the Atlantic appears to be stable or increasing, but the Pacific population is declining at an alarming rate due to egg harvest, fishery bycatch, coastal development, and highly variable food availability. Some Pacific populations have disappeared entirely from certain areas, such as Malaysia.

The survival rate among hatchlings is said to be only 1 in 1,000. First, the eggs must avoid predation from ghost crabs, monitor lizards, dogs, raccoons, coyotes, mongooses, and seagulls and other shorebirds. The hatchlings must avoid the same predation upon emerging from the nest and while making a run for the ocean. In the ocean, the tiny turtles then face a new set of predators.

The survivors can grow up to 7 feet and exceed 2,000 pounds, but the chances of any of these making it to that size is pretty small, unfortunately.

Still, a great video of nature at work.