Majestic and ancient, SEA TURTLES are one of the most beloved treasures along the world's beaches. Out of the seven species of sea turtles roaming the world’s oceans, five of those species find their way to the shores of on a regular basis. Visitors and locals are all encouraged to learn more about these flippered friends, and do their part bring our turtles off of the endangered and threatened species lists. It is time to ask some serious questions, and discover some fun facts about sea turtles.
What in the world makes Sea Turtles So Special?
Sea turtles are fascinating in so many ways. In addition to being an exquisite member of the reptile family, they are also rather rare. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, 6 of which are listed as threatened or endangered.
Despite sharing a similar habitat, the five species that find their way to different coasts each year, they are all very different. These differences are called "ecological niches". When you study the Loggerheads, Kemp's Ridley, Leatherback, Green, and Hawksbill sea turtles , you will find subtle and not-so-subtle differences based on their diet, geographic zones, and reproductive needs. For example, a Green Sea Turtle has a serrated bill that allows it to cut through seagrasses and algae. The Leatherback has long flippers for traveling great distances throughout the ocean.
Feasting on a diet of jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails, algae and mollusks, sea turtles vary greatly in size and weight. The Kemp's Ridley will grow to about 30 inches and 80-100 pounds, whereas the Leatherback can grow to lengths of 6.5 feet and weight as much as 2,000 pounds. Once a sea turtle reaches reproductive age, they will typically mate along the coastline, adjacent to nesting grounds. A female sea turtles will migrate back the region where she was hatched, crawl out of the surf at night, dig a hole in the sand, deposit 70-190 eggs in the nest, cover it with sand, and then return to the ocean.
They’ve been around for a very, very long time.
The oldest known sea turtle fossils date back about 150 million years, making them some of the oldest creatures on Earth. Just for some context, dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago:
They really love to travel.
Leatherback sea turtles can travel more than 10,000 miles every year:
For sea turtles, home is where the heart is.
When it’s time to lay their eggs, female sea turtles return to the same nesting grounds where they were born:
They can hold their breath for a very (very, very) long time.
Green sea turtles can stay underwater for up to five hours, but their feeding dives usually only last five minutes or less:
They can grow to be suuuuuper heavy.
Leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
Their eggs look amazingly like pingpong balls.
But they’re not, so don’t try to play with them! Females lay up to 150 eggs every two to three years. A couple months later, tiny turtles emerge:
And for the new hatchlings, it really is survival of the fittest.
It is estimated that only one hatchling in a thousand will make it to adulthood. Whether it’s the treacherous journey from nest to ocean or the predatory dangers of the open sea, it’s a cruel, cruel world out there for these youngsters:
Since they don’t have to return to land to lay eggs.
Males almost never leave the ocean. This can make it difficult to keep track of population numbers.
Sometimes they cry, but not because they’re sad.
Sea turtles have glands that help to empty excess salt from their eyes, making it appear as though they’re crying, but not to worry, they’re just doing some spring cleaning:
Their gender depends on how hot or cold their environment was while they were in their eggs.
During incubation, sex is determined by the temperature of the surrounding environment. Warm temperatures tend to produce more female hatchlings, whereas cooler temps result in males:
They’re in deep trouble and it’s our fault.
There are seven species of sea turtles, six of which are either threatened or endangered. Humans pose the biggest threat to a sea turtle’s survival, which contributes to problems such as entanglement, habitat loss and consumption of their eggs and meat:
They’re totally adorable.
But you already knew that: