Loggerhead Sea Turtle

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead sea turtles are the most familiar to many people and they are one of the most studied of the sea turtles. They are on average slightly smaller than green sea turtles, but they have a much more substantial and robust head, which is where their name derives. Many of their nesting areas are in extremely populated areas, such as Daytona Beach in Florida. This proximity puts them in danger, but it also allows people to develop an affinity for them and a desire to protect them.


Content List

1. Scientific & Common Names

2. Characteristics

a. Breeding

b. Behavior

3. History

4. Present Status

5. References


Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class – Reptilia

Subclass - Anapsida

Order - Testudines

Superfamily - Chelonioidea

Family – Cheloniidae

Genus – Caretta

Species – C.caretta

Common Names: Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Loggerhead


Characteristics

Loggerheads average around three feet and 250 pounds. They are not as long lived as some of their cousins, living about 50 years in the wild. Although this is the most abundant species found in US waters, it is still considered threatened. Loss of nesting habitat and marine debris are two of the biggest threats to this ancient species. They tend to be tan or reddish brown with light colored plastrons (bellies). Their front flippers are very thick and they have two claws on each, while the shorter back flippers can have two or three claws.


Breeding

They mate every few years and the females will cross great distances, even thousands of miles of open ocean, to reach their preferred beach, which is almost always the beach where they hatched. They laboriously haul themselves ashore and dig a nest as deep as their front flippers, where they deposit a clutch of about 100 eggs. They can repeat this process up to six times per season. The eggs incubate for three months and the hatchlings emerge to face the trek from the nest to the water. This is the single most precarious time of their lives and only a small percentage will survive their first day. Those that do survive make their way to the open ocean where they congregate on flotillas of sargassum seaweed.


Behavior

Loggerheads are primarily carnivores and they hunt fish and, more commonly, invertebrates. They will sometimes eat seaweed, but that is a small percentage of their diet. Once hatchlings reach the water, males may never again touch dry land and females do so only while nesting. As reptiles, they must sun themselves, but they do this by floating at the surface of the water. They can dive for several minutes and surface to breath for only a few seconds. When they are at rest, they can remain submerged for hours at a time.


History

Sea turtles split from their land-based ancestors over 100 million years ago, although fossils of turtles that bear a strong resemblance to modern sea turtles can be found as far back as the Jurassic period. Today, there are seven species of sea turtles covering all temperate and warm areas of the oceans.


Present status

Internationally, loggerheads are listed as endangered, although the US still has them at the lower classification of threatened. All sea turtles are red listed in some capacity and there are international regulations concerning harming or even harassing them.


References

Loggerhead Sea Turtles by Alan B. Bolten, Blair E. Witherington

Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation by James R. Spotila

Biology of Sea Turtles, Vol. 2 by Peter L. Lutz, John A. Musick, and Jeanette Wyneken

Biology of Sea Turtles, Vol. 1 by Peter L. Lutz, John A. Musick

Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST)

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea's Biodiversity by Michael E. Soulé, Elliott A. Norse, Larry B. Crowder