Sea turtles inhabit temperate and tropical waters around the world. Their diet depends on the species, but in general, they tend to feed on seaweed, crabs, algae, jellyfish and mollusks. Sea turtles can live up to 80 years in the wild.
1. Scientific & Common Names
4. Present Status
Scientific & Common Names
There are seven species of sea turtles. These include Caretta caretta (loggerhead), Chelonia mydas (green turtle), Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback), Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill), Lepidochelys kempii (Kemp’s Ridley), Lepidochelys olivacea (olive Ridley) and Natator depressa (flatback).
Sea turtles have shells and skin that range from yellow to black, depending on their species. Their smooth shells and flippers help them swim quickly through water. Sea turtles are not able to pull their heads into their shells, as other species of turtles do. They range in size based on species. The biggest sea turtles are leatherbacks, which measure more than 6.5 feet long and weigh more than 2,000 pounds as adults. The smallest species is Kemp’s Ridley. These turtles measure 30 inches in length and weigh between 80 to 100 pounds as adults.
Sea turtles breed from March through October, but the exact breeding season depends on their species. Females lay between 70 and 190 eggs at a time in the sand; the eggs then incubate for six to 10 weeks. The sand’s temperature determines the developing turtles’ sex. Warmer sand produces females, while cooler temperatures produce males. Young turtles must survive on their own and find their way to the water.
Very little is known about the behavior of adult sea turtles, since they spend so much time in the water. Females lay their eggs in the same place that they were born and use their flippers to dig nests. Newborn turtles must dig their way out of the covered nest, which can take up to one week. They finally leave the nest at night and walk toward the water.
Sea turtles have experienced serious population declines throughout their historic range mainly due to habitat loss and other human-related threats. They also have a slow repopulation rate, since only one out of every 1,000 young sea turtles reaches adulthood.
Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are listed as critically endangered, while loggerheads and green turtles are listed as endangered. Other sea turtle species are listed as vulnerable. The main threats are habitat loss, egg harvesting and marine debris in which sea turtles become entangled. Conservation efforts include marine habitat protection and regulations on harvesting and illegal trade.