Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Survival of the Sea Turtle

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Sea turtles are miraculous.

First, they've been around since the late Jurassic,

roughly 150 million years ago.

Cohorts of the dinosaurs,

sea turtles have survived through the challenges of eons,

existing still today,

where many others have ended their evolutionary run.

Second, throughout the centuries and up till today,

every living adult sea turtle has overcome the odds,

existing as a consequence of chance,

skill, and capability.

The gauntlet each sea turtle faces in the course of its lifetime goes thus:

First, deposited as a clutch of leathery, ping-pong ball-sized eggs

into a nesting pit dug by its mother high on the beach,

of the 50 to 200 eggs laid,

roughly 20 percent will never hatch.

Roughly a month and a half after having been laid,

the surviving eggs hatch,

and the young turtles, each small enough to fit in the palm of your hand,

squirm to the surface, emerging from the sand en masse,

and making their desperate dash for the sea.

Along the way, debris, pitfalls, crabs,

gulls, raccoons, and other threats

will claim roughly 50 percent of those who rose from the sand.

For those that actually reach the surf,

they trade one set of threats for another,

as they first face the repelling force of the waves,

and then find a whole new host of predators awaiting them:

Various fish, dolphins, sharks, and sea birds,

as the young turtles come to the surface for air.

For their first few days of life,

should they count themselves amongst the living,

the vulnerable turtles swim frantically forward.

Ultimately, they will often look to settle in a patch of flotsam,

preferably a patch of floating seaweed.

Now for the next several months,

they will seek to avoid those that would eat them,

find that which they might eat themselves,

and not fall to the pressures of challenging weather

or unfortunate currents.

In this phase, roughly 50 percent of those who reach the surf

will perish.

Ultimately, with the passage of years,

the survivors will increase in size,

from that of a dinner plate at year one

to that of a dinner table,

in the case of one species at least, the leatherback,

a decade or so later.

With size comes some measure of protection.

The only truly worrisome predators now are some of the larger shark species--

bulls, tigers, and whites --

and the occasional killer whale.

At approximately two decades of age,

the survivors will be old enough themselves to breed,

and continue the cycle which their very existence heralds.

Of those that began as eggs on a distant beach,

now less than 10 percent remain,

at least, those were the odds prior to significant human interference.

Over the past century, and in particular in the last several decades,

human endeavors, from beach development

to plastic refuse to poaching, long lines, nets,

and even noxious chemicals, including oil,

have upped the ante for sea turtles,

causing their survival rate to drop to around one percent or less,

from each nesting cycle.

It is this added human pressure which has pushed

each of the eight sea turtle species

into either a threatened or endangered state.

For while they have evolved to overcome a host of obstacles,

the most recent has arisen so quickly

and at such scale that the species find themselves overwhelmed.

So let's quickly recap this cycle of odds.

Using a hypothetical nesting season,

for females may nest multiple times in a single year,

of 1,000 eggs, for sake of ease.

1000 eggs laid.

800 hatch.

400 make it to the water.

200 progress toward adulthood.

20 survive to breeding age --

that is, without human interference.

Two survive to breeding age with human interference.

So a breeding adult sea turtle is the very embodiment of a long shot.

It is the exception, not the rule.

A jackpot.

It is, in a very real sense,

a miracle.

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