Photo: Jimmy G/Flickr
March signals the beginning of the annual sea turtle nesting season in Florida, where loggerhead and green sea turtles are found in numbers not seen anywhere else in the United States.
While male sea turtles live out their lives along the continental shelves of almost all of the Earth's oceans (aside from the Arctic), females must return to sandy shores to lay their eggs.
Thanks to conservation efforts by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and concerned volunteers, biologists are hoping to match the success of last year, when more than 36,000 green turtle nests were identified along Florida beaches.
From now until October, thousands of volunteers will patrol more than 800 miles of shoreline to count, mark and safeguard sea turtle nests.
Photo: Jeroen Looyé/Flickr
But the focus on turtles goes far beyond Florida's shores. Sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their sandy nest at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Couple this low survival rate with an increase in manmade ecological threats and it's easy to understand why nearly all species of sea turtle are listed as "vulnerable," "endangered" and "critically endangered" under the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
Photo: Pete Niesen/Shutterstock
People observe Olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings with a red LED flashlight as they scurry to the ocean water across the sandy beach of Managua, Nicaragua.
Photo: StacieStauffSmith Photos/Shutterstock
A sign alerting beach-goers of a loggerhead sea turtle nest is posted in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Due to their endangered status, sea turtle eggs, hatchlings, adults and even carcasses are strictly protected under both federal and state laws across the country.
Photo: Christine H./Flickr
An adorable bale of 110 newly hatched Kemp's ridley sea turtles traverse a sandy beach on South Padre Island, Texas, before being swept up by the ocean waves.
While most sea turtles are solitary in their nesting, the critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle is the only species that comes ashore en masse during daylight hours to nest. This phenomenon, called the "arribada" ("arrival" in Spanish), usually occurs in Tamaulipas, Mexico, or on South Padre Island.
The cause of the coordinated nesting isn't totally clear, but scientists believe it may be the result of offshore winds, lunar cycles and the release of female turtle pheromones.
Related on MNN:
Want to see more great photos? Check out MNN’s photo blog