What Is the Life Cycle of a Turtle?

The life cycle of a turtle begins with hatching and then progresses through feeding, maturity, mating and nesting. The life cycle differs slightly depending on the gender of the turtle.

The sea turtle life cycle beings with hatching. A hatchling emerges from its egg and makes its way to the ocean. The next stage is called "the lost years," because scientists are unsure of what happens to the hatchling. One theory is that the young turtle spends years in the open ocean feeding on flotsam. When the hatchling is between 5 and 10 years old, it enters the coastal feeding area with the other turtles.

Between 11 and 40 years old, the turtle becomes sexually mature. Once the turtle reaches sexual maturity, the new adult joins the breeding migration, which takes it back to the beach of its birth. Males and females mate offshore.

At this point, the life cycle diverges. The male returns to the coastal feeding area, and the female nests. She digs a hole in the sand that serves as an egg chamber during the cooler temperatures of the night. After she lays her eggs, she fills the nest with the sand and returns to the coastal feeding area. Seven to 12 weeks later, the eggs hatch.