When a baby sea turtle is swept to shore and into the waiting pincers of a hungry crab, a life-or-death struggle ensues.

The footage, filmed by the BBC for its Animal Babies series, is just a glimpse at how tough life is for young sea turtles. The tiny survivor does manage to escape from crabby doom, but most hatchlings are not so lucky. According to some estimates, as few as one percent will actually make it to adulthood.

Mother sea turtles abandon their eggs after laying them and burying them in sand, leaving the newborns to fend for themselves when they hatch – assuming they aren't eaten by predators before they even get the chance.

A baby sea turtle crawls on the sand after hatching. (Wildlifeppl/Wikimedia Commons)

The process of hatching itself is a challenge: the turtles must first use a temporary tooth called a caruncle to break out of their shell, and then spend several days digging their way out of the sand.

Once free, the babies orient themselves with the brightest horizon they can see and head in that direction. Assuming the lure of bright land-based lights (such as beach fires or traffic lights) doesn't lead them farther ashore, the turtles will make their way to sea, where strong currents carry them away – if they're lucky. They will often spend years maturing before returning to land.

If they're not so lucky, they'll be washed back up on shore, where hungry crabs and birds await. The fortunate few that do make it to adulthood, however, have the potential to live for over a century

All those natural threats are compounded by the damage caused by human activity, and many sea turtle species are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN.

Here's the full clip from the BBC:


Top header image: PMNM, Flickr