Ten Facts about Sea Turtles for World Sea Turtle Day
In honor of World Sea Turtle Day, here are ten fun facts about our reptilian friends!
Sea turtles are ancient!
Fossil evidence of a 5000 pound sea turtle, measuring 13 feet long and 16 feet wide, was found in South Dakota in the 1970’s. This extinct species of sea turtle, known as Archelon, was thought to have lived in the shallow oceans that covered parts of North America 245 million years ago! These sea turtles are believed to have only survived for 100 years before this ocean over North America dried up!
2. There are 7 species of sea turtles worldwide!
All 7 of these species are either threatened or endangered. In South Florida waters, we see 5 of these species, but only 3 commonly nest on our beaches! The Loggerhead sea turtle is Florida’s most common nester. It weighs 200 to 400 pounds and mainly feeds on crustaceans. The Green sea turtle weights 300 to 500 pounds and primarily eats sea grasses and algae. They cannot digest the chlorophyll in the plants they eat, so their body fat is green, hence where the origin of their name came from. The Leatherback sea turtle is the world’s largest sea turtles, weighing between 1200 to 2000 pounds! They have specialized teeth-like structures in the back of their throats, which help them eat jellyfish.
3. Loggerheads love Florida!
Florida supports 90% of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean’s nesting Loggerhead population! 20% of Florida’s nesting Loggerheads, nest along the east coast of Florida!
4. Sea turtles travel back to the beach they originally hatched on.
Once a sea turtle reaches sexual maturity it will travel back to the beach it once emerged from as a hatchling. The females come back to the area to find mates and lay their legs on the same beaches they were laid on, by their mom. The males will go back to the waters surrounding these beaches to mate with as many females as possible.
5. They have a built in GPS system!
Using magnetic fields and the oceans currents, sea turtles can navigate through the oceans with ease! This ability is what helps them find their way from feeding grounds to the waters they once entered as hatchlings. A Leatherback sea turtle was once reported to have traveled 12,000 miles, round-trip, across the Pacific Ocean!
6. The chicks are hot and the dudes are cool!
The gender of a sea turtles is dependent on the temperatures throughout the nest! Warmer parts of the nest, 85°F or higher, typically result in more females, whereas lower temperatures, below 85°F, tend to result in more male turtles! In recent years, with rising temperatures, there is concern that nests will begin to produce more female sea turtles. Even worse, this worldwide increase in temperature could decrease the success rates of nests.
7. Baby sea turtles are on their own from day one!
Hatchling sea turtles are born with all the instincts they need to survive! After a female sea turtle lays her nest she never returns to check on that clutch of eggs. On their own, the babies will emerge from the nest, and using the light of the moon over the ocean, find their way to the water. From the moment they enter the water, they begin using magnetic fields and ocean currents to find their way to safety.
8. Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles survive!
Sea turtles face a number of threats and obstacles, throughout their lives! Some of the main threats are natural predators and coastal development. Racoons, coyotes, crabs, and birds are responsible for killing a large number of sea turtle hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. These young, vulnerable creatures, also fall victim to human disturbances. Coastal development has created artificial sky glow, which causes these hatchlings to crawl towards the city instead of to the ocean. They face even more danger, as they enter the water, where large fish lurk. If they are lucky enough to survive to adulthood they still have the potential to fall prey to sharks and with increasing populations, they often suffer fatal boat strike injuries. Biologists estimate that only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles survive until adulthood, but more recent studies claim that that number could be even fewer, at 1 in 10,000.
9. Sea turtles can live 100 years!
Since there are so many obstacles sea turtles face, how long a sea turtle can live remains a mystery. However, scientists believe that it could be close to a century!
10. They need your help!
Since all species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered, they need our help! Please keep the use of lights at or near the beach to a minimum at night! Leave no trace behind on the beach. Everything that comes with you, must go home with you! Use the proper garbage and recycling reciprocals and eliminate the waste you are putting into the world! Most importantly, spread these fun facts with your friends and families to help the world understand and appreciate the largest reptile of the sea!
Written by: Samantha Arner