In order to know how turtles reproduce after reaching their reproductive maturity, it is important to remember that they are oviparous animals. Reproduction is done through eggs. This process is usually a little violent for females, so it is important to be vigilant when you encounter a couple that is mating, to avoid any greater harm.
In turtles, one cannot speak of a certain age of reproduction, because it can vary quite a lot from one species to another, but also within the same species, from one individual to another, depending on the conditions it has benefited from, and it also runs for a very long time. It should be noted that males are generally more precocious than females, the difference being one or more years.
According to some researchers, the attainment of reproductive maturity is closely interdependent with the animal’s waist and insured living conditions, and less with the age of the animals. Appreciating the relatively optimal mating age in some species, the earliest are red-swapped turtles, 6-20 years; 90-120mm in males, 200mm in females. Testudo hermanni reaches sexual maturity at 8-12 years in males and at 10-14 years in females. Emys orbicularis reaches sexual maturity at 5-7 years in males in the southern populations, at 10-12 in the northern populations, and in females later.
In their natural environment, the turtles, during the reproductive period, have a very well-marked territorial behavior, which they strictly keep for all life, an aspect that you must keep in mind when you grow them in captivity. Thus, turtles will not reproduce unless you create conditions that copy the ones in their natural environment.
As the mating time approaches, if more individuals are together, males begin to fight for their partner. In this sense, the males perform real nuptial parades in front of the females, moving in force, touching countless times the partner’s shell, making it vibrate, gently scratching the female’s chin with the help of the forelimbs, sometimes biting the female, circling around or in front of her, etc. Also, in some species, the male emits sounds that are more like a whimper to beg for female acceptance or perform lateral movements of the head until the partner agrees.
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Even though the habitats of sea turtles and land turtles differ, they mate in the same way. Mating takes place after frenetic pursuits in aquatic basins, numerous clashes, and often even quite brutal bites. In other species of turtles, the male performs a series of acrobatic movements, swimming in front of the female in all positions, including on the back, in a circle, in parallel, under her, etc.
In aquatic and land turtles, mating takes place in water, where the male swims on the back of the female and stays in this position for more than an hour, clinging to her shell. The copulatory act is carried out in several days, having a duration that extends from a few minutes to over an hour. Less often, the coupling can also be performed on land, in which case there is a risk of injury to the genitals.
After mating, at about 8-10 weeks, depending on the ambient temperature and the species, egg deposition takes place. I must mention that some species of turtles have the possibility of laying eggs in several rounds during the same season, which is all adaptability to the environment and a safety coefficient for obtaining new generations. Turtles can thus deposit more eggs, usually two times, during summer and autumn. Trachemys can lay eggs up to 5 times in a single season, laying between 2 and 23 eggs.
Most species lay eggs during the night. Female turtles travel considerable distances along the beach, so the eggs are not exposed to large waves and high tides. Once the place is chosen, they dig a hole about 50 cm (20 inches) deep, storing between 50 and 100 eggs, and some even more than 300, in the hole. Then the mother covers the eggs with sand and hides the nest well. This happens the same in land turtles.
Very interesting is the action of temperature on hatching, which can also influence to some extent the differentiation of the sexes. Thus, if the temperature is high, above the average temperature in the area where the eggs were laid, a higher number of females will develop, while at lower temperatures, more males will be obtained.
Under optimal conditions, eggs take between 50 and 80 days to hatch, while if the weather is too cold, incubation can take up to 130 days.