The eggs have started hatching!

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Quarter included for size comparison.

I was met with quite a surprise yesterday afternoon when I checked on the eggs in their incubator, which is really nothing more than a food storage container half-submerged in a 10-gallon fish tank and a aquarium heater set to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). At that temperature, most of the babies produced should grow up into females, which I am hoping might eventually balance our current overabundance of males. Low incubation temperatures produce males, and higher temperatures produce females, which means that the Riverside courtyard must be pretty cool.

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The incubator. Eggs that are hatching can be found in the container at right.

At last check, five of the total six eggs that Bloopy Beans laid on June 15, 2016 were in the process of hatching, although this process can certainly take a long time! The best news of all is that we can be sure of the mother’s identity with these babies, and can therefore test to see how well our computer programs verify the identities of parents based on the genetic markers we’ve been sequencing. Of course, this means separating each group of babies–at least until they can be identified by pattern–so we’re going to have several different turtle nurseries up and running this year.

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In this image, we can get a clear look at the baby box turtle’s “egg tooth,” which is a small, hornlike structure at the end of the beak which the turtle uses to poke through its shell.

Among the most interesting aspects of the whole hatching process is how all of the eggs in a particular clutch are able to hatch at the same time. Is there some sort of signaling between the eggs that keeps everyone developing at the same pace, or is it that egg development is such a precisely timed mechanism that all of the eggs just happen to develop in near-perfect synchronization? Perhaps next year we could separate eggs from the same mother in different containers separated by location, so that we could see if these eggs will still hatch on the same schedule, regardless of whether or not the other eggs are close. Even with something as simple as an egg hatching, there are still plenty of opportunities for experimentation!

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You can see a little bit of shell in there, and the blood appears to be a normal part of hatching. No need to be concerned!

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