Our Friends of the Sea
Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on Earth and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years. They are reptiles that are remarkably suited to life in the sea, they can be found in all our oceans except for the Polar Regions.
The seven existing species of sea turtles are: the Green, Loggerhead, Kemp's Ridley, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Flatback and Leatherback, let’s take a closer look……
Green Sea Turtle
They can weigh up to 500 lbs (225 kg) and reach four feet (1.2 m) in length. The adult is a herbivore, dining on seagrasses, seaweeds, algae and other forms of marine plant life. Their beak is sharp and finely serrated, perfectly adapted for grazing in seagrass beds and scraping algae off of hard surfaces.
This species is the only one to come on shore regularly to bask. Basking only occurs in Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands and in some areas of Australia.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
One of the larger species of sea turtles, the loggerhead turtle ranges from 200-400 pounds (90 - 180 kg) and up to 4 feet in length (1.2 meters). They occur throughout the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
They are named for their large head and strong crushing jaw which enables them to eat hard-shelled prey such as crabs, conchs, and whelks.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Considered by many to be the most beautiful of sea turtles for their colourful shells, the hawksbill is found in tropical waters around the world. They spend their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, oceanic islands, and shallow coastal areas.
Named for its narrow head and sharp, bird-like beak, hawksbills can reach into cracks and crevices of coral reefs looking for food. Their diet is very specialized, feeding almost exclusively on sponges.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
Until recently, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was on the brink of extinction. Thanks to strict protection laws which protected their nesting beaches in Mexico and reduced accidental capture in fishing gear, the species has begun a slow, but steady comeback from a previous low of only 200 nesting individuals, to an estimated 7,000 - 9,000 individuals today.
These are the smallest of the seven sea turtle species, weighing between 75-100 pounds (35 - 45 kg) and measuring approximately 2 feet (.6 m) in length.
This is the only species that nests primarily during the day. They also nest in mass similar to their relative the Olive Ridley.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
The second smallest after the Kemp’s ridley, the olive ridley turtles weigh between 75-100 pounds (34 - 45 kg) and reach 2-2 ½ feet (roughly .6 m) in length. They are named for their pale green carapace, or shell and are the most abundant of sea turtle species.
Like the Kemp’s ridley, they nest in masses, during which, thousands of females may nest over the course of a few days to a few weeks. Adults reach sexual maturity around the age of 15 years.
Flatback Sea Turtle
The Flatback sea turtle is named after its shell which is unlike the curved shell of other sea turtle species. The shell is pale greyish-green in colour with the outer margins distinctly upturned. An adult weighs 200 pounds and is approximately 3 feet in length. They have the smallest distribution of all the species and breed and nest only in Australia.
Flatbacks are preyed upon by saltwater crocodiles, the largest reptile on earth. Adult females have been observed being attacked by crocs while attempting to nest.
Leatherback Sea Turtles
The largest of all sea turtles, and one of the largest reptiles on earth, the leatherback turtle ranges in size from 4-8 feet in length (1.2 - 2.4 meters) and weighs between 500-2,000 pounds (225 - 900 kg).
The oldest of all sea turtle species, it has been around for more than 150 million years! They survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and thrived until the last several decades when human interactions have taken a major toll.
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