Hatching Hatchlings of Geochelone Denticulata

At left, the facilities in which we incubated the eggs.

We used plain fluorescent egg crate with a hot water bath underneath. The rack floated on the bath on pieces of insulating sheathing. The top of the tank was covered 96% with sheathing and sometimes a towel on very cold nights. Ambient temperature was never below 75 and usually hovered at 85 deg F.

At left, "Uno" the first tortoise hatchling to emerge. Fully twenty four hours ahead of its sibling. The eggs incubated from Labor Day (Sept 7 1998) through February 27th 1999. I was encouraged not to give up hope by the experts and so I did not.

Notice how large the egg yolk sac is on the umbilicus. You can also see the egg tooth. I have never read a good description of the hatching process. The outer calcium shell starts to break away in pieces, and a hard white leather sac remains, which is cut by the tortoise to make an air hole. The turtle then sits for as many as twenty four hours, using the yolk sac and breathing atmospheric air. After a while, the hatchling becomes restless and begins to spin around and around inside the leather shelled agg, and the majority of the calcium is split off. Soon, the leather sac is split in many places by the hatchling's egg-tooth, and out tumbles the hatchling. The whole process takes about 36-48 hours.

I worried alot that the hatchlings were having trouble coming out and that they might suffocate. I encourage you to follow the wisdom of the sages and NOT pick apart the shell before the hatchling does. The yolks are not "used up enough" and so are very large. That last twenty four hours in the egg is important .

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