Like many turtles, Caretta caretta has temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). The sex of hatchlings is determined by egg temperature during the middle third of incubation. The pivotal temperature - the temperature at which an 50:50 ratio of males:females is produced - varies from location to location around the world. For example, the pivotal temperature in South Africa is 29.7 ºC , but in Australia the pivotal temperature is 28.2 ºC. Generally, the pivotal temperature is between 28 and 30 ºC. Temperatures of 24 to 26 ºC tend to produce all males and temperatures of 32 to 34 ºC tend to produce all females. Eggs are not viable outside the extremes of these ranges.
The speed of embryonic development within the egg depends on the temperature within the nest. This temperature can be affected by sun, shade, rain, heat generated within the nest, and an egg's position in the nest. At cool temperatures, around 25 ºC, development to hatching can take 65 to 70 days, but at warmer temperatures, around 35 ºC, development usually takes around 45 days.
When loggerheads are juveniles the differences between the sexes begin to emerge. Males produce increasing levels of testosterone as they approach maturity, which triggers tail growth, plastron softening, and the growth and curvature of a nail on each forelimb. Females produce estrogen and small amounts of testosterone, but externally just grow larger. Age at maturity is variable. Mature size is attained between age 10 and 30; captives are predicted to mature in 16 to 17 years. Reproductve life span (after reaching maturity) is estimated at about 32 years.
Development - Life Cycle: temperature sex determination