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First fossil trails of baby sea turtles found in South Africa

9 Sep 2019 - 08:45

Baby sea turtles are cute. They fascinate us as they dig out of their sandy nests and make a run for the sea. But they face instant danger from voracious birds and other predators – so we cheer them on, hoping that they will “make it” to the relative safety of their natural habitat, the ocean.

Those that are successful in this journey will not return to land until they are breeding adults, usually around 20 years old, to bury their own eggs. This means that they only make tracks on land as hatchlings for the first few minutes of life. And most of these tracks are quickly washed away.

This makes finding the first ever fossil baby sea turtle trackways all the more surprising.

We are part of a research team from South Africa, the US and Canada that recently had an article published in the journal Quaternary Research revealing the existence of baby sea turtle trackways dating back about 100 000 years, on what is today South Africa’s Cape South Coast. This is an area that stretches eastward along the coast from Cape Town.