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Snapping Turtles Laying Eggs

6-8-15  snapping turtle 257Every June female Snapping Turtles leave their ponds to bury their eggs in sandy soil where the eggs will incubate for the next three months without any parental care or supervision. These eggs, as well as those of many other reptiles, experience temperature-dependent sex determination. The temperature of an individual incubating egg during the middle one-third of embryonic development determines whether the developing turtle will be a male or female. Males are generally produced at lower incubation temperatures than females. At temperatures ranging between 72°F. and 80°F., males usually develop, whereas warmer temperatures around 86°F. produce female turtles.

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10 responses

  1. Dexter and 4th graders

    Yesterday we saw unmistakable tracks of a snapper leaving a river and signs of digging in the sand. But haven’t we also seen 1/2 dollar sized snappers at this time of year and earlier? Are those little guys LAST year’s hatchlings?

    June 8, 2015 at 7:39 am

    • Hi Dexter and 4th graders,
      My guess is that you’ve seen the 1/2 dollar-size snappers in late August or September, as that’s when they usually emerge. All snapper eggs hatch in late summer/early fall, but in some locations the young turtles remain in the nest over the winter, and emerge in the spring. Because they would freeze if they did that in the Northeast, overwintering in the nest is usual only in warmer areas, (not sure where you are located) in southern U.S.

      June 8, 2015 at 8:29 am

      • Dexter and 4th graders

        Hi again Mary,
        The hatchlings we’ve seen were in June, like last week, and late May… so maybe those guys were not snappers at all… We’ve seen painted turtles laying in May, maybe THOSE nests yield the hatchlings we’ve been seeing?

        Painted turtle babies usually crawl up out of the ground in August or September…and wood turtles as well. Both snappers and wood turtles can overwinter in their nests, though it’s unusual this far north…

        June 8, 2015 at 8:50 am


    Hi, Mary — Can you ID the bug in the attached photo, and confirm that she’s laying eggs? Thanks, Larry Chase

    June 8, 2015 at 7:53 am

  3. So interesting about the soil temperature determining sex. The million dollar question is why? There must be an evolutionary advantage. What is their average life expectancy?

    June 8, 2015 at 8:45 am

    • They live to at least 47 years, given the chance!

      June 8, 2015 at 9:50 am

  4. Libby

    Might be interesting to learn, as the climate warms, whether or not viable breeding populations will survive if most hatches are female….

    June 8, 2015 at 9:13 am

  5. Peggy Longley


    June 8, 2015 at 7:05 pm

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