Although turtles and rabbits have often been compared on speed, with turtles being the slow ones, you also hear all about rabbits breeding prolifically but you don’t hear it about turtles. Why not? Turtles have been around for millions of years, so one might think that they do breed prolifically as well. They do tend to lay large numbers of eggs, but their system of breeding is about as far from a rabbit as one can get!
Some turtles spend a lot of time in groups of males and females, some spend time in mating pairs, and others do not come together much until it is time to breed.
For sea turtles, the mating season usually happens when the days get longer and the temperature gets warmer.
The temperature surrounding the eggs will determine the gender of the hatchlings in many turtle breeds, so they need to reproduce when temperatures will vary.
Male and female turtles appear to choose their mates based on availability.
The female will typically swim in water not too far from shore.
She will swim in a horizontal position and the male will mount her.
Males may hook their claws into the neck of the female to hold on and if they don’t, they may slip off preventing successful mating.
The male has a penis that is sheathed inside the cloaca which is the same orifice used to eliminate waste.
The female will have a clutch of eggs inside her cloaca, so the male inserts his penis into her cloaca and releases sperm.
It isn't uncommon to see other males arrive during the mating process and try to detach the male from the female, so they can try to lay their eggs instead.
The competition can become fierce, with biting and bumping, but the mating male can't fight back because if he does he risks slipping off the female.
After all, this is a competition of reproduction and only the strongest genes will survive.
Strong competition could be a reason sea turtles have been around over a hundred millions of years.
Once the eggs are immersed in sperm inside the female, she will separate from the male and swim towards the shore.
If other males approach she will fight to avoid them even if she has to get rough to protect her newly fertilized eggs.
She then swims to shore, digs a nest, and lays the eggs as quickly as she can.