The animals on the cover of Version Control with Subversion, Second Edition, are
hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) or Honu’ea, as they are known in Hawaii.
The hawksbill is a medium-sized turtle weighing up to 270 pounds, with a shell length
of about 3 feet. This sea turtle can be found in tropical reef areas in the Atlantic, Pacific,
and Indian oceans. The hawksbill gets its name from its distinctive beak-like mouth,
and it is also recognized for its beautiful shell coloring, known as “tortoise shell,” which
was exploited by the fashion industry for many years. Hawksbill sea turtles are listed
as an endangered species in Hawaii and are protected under the state law as well as
many other endangered species laws.
Sea turtles are highly migratory and have unique nesting habits. Nesting occurs at night,
typically between May and October. First, the females go ashore and look for small,
isolated beaches where they can lay their eggs. After they choose a site, usually beyond
the tideline, they dig a pit with their flippers and excavate an egg chamber. Sea turtles
only nest every two to three years, but they can lay up to six clutches of eggs in one
breeding season. A single nesting can contain as many as 230 eggs, with the average
being about 130. When the last egg has been laid, the females cover the chamber with
sand and return to the sea, leaving the eggs behind.
The eggs incubate in their sand chambers for two to three months, and then hatching
takes place over several days. At birth, a hatchling is so small it can fit into the palm of
a human hand. The newborn turtles emerge from their chambers in groups at night,
when the sand is cool and there is less threat of predators. They immediately head
toward the sea, guided by the moonlight and the stars’ reflections on the water. But
they face severe challenges during this journey, and the mortality rate is high, as many
of them fall prey to shorebirds and crabs. The turtles that safely reach the ocean disappear
into it and may only venture out again years later.