Sea turtles are characterized by a large, streamlined shell and non-retractile head and limbs. They may be olive-green, yellow, greenish-brown, or black.
Did you know?
Sea turtles do not have ears or teeth!
Sea turtles can see well under water but are shortsighted in the air.
Sea turtles are found in all the world’s oceans, except the Arctic.
Sea turtles have an extraordinary sense of time and location. They are highly sensitive to the Earth's magnetic field and use it to navigate.
Leatherbacks have the longest migration of all sea turtles. They have been found more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beaches.
Sea turtles range from 25 in. long and 85 lb. to 6 ft long and 2,000 lbs!
The leatherback is the only sea turtle that does not have a hard shell, instead it has several bony plates beneath a leathery coat.
Most researchers believe that sea turtles have an acute sense of smell in the water, allowing them to locate food even in murky water.
All eight species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered on the U.S. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants List.
Some sea turtle species enjoy floating on the ocean’s surface, napping and/or sunbathing. Sometimes, birds will perch on their shells while the turtles do this!
Some sea turtles can live 80 years!
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) protects all species of sea turtles. The U.S. and 115 other countries have banned the import or export of sea turtle products.
Sea turtles help sustain our ecosystem in two very important ways:
1) They fertilize it. Sea turtle eggs contribute nutrients to dune vegetation. As sea turtle numbers decline and fewer eggs are laid, less nutrients are deposited into the sand dunes which results in beach erosion due to lack of vegetation.
2) They maintain it. Sea turtles are one of the few creatures that eat sea grass. Sea grass must be kept short to remain healthy, and beds of healthy sea grass are essential breeding and development areas for many species of fish and other marine life.
IMPACT OF COMMERCIAL FISHING ON SEA TURTLES: Thousands of sea turtles drown in shrimp nets each year because sea turtles forage in the same waters where commercial shrimpers trawl. Caught in a fisherman's net, they are unable to go to the surface to breathe and suffocate to death in the net.
The good news is that since 1989, federal law requires that a Turtle Excluder Device (TED), a metal grid trapdoor inside a trawling net that allows turtles to escape nets, be installed on the nets of all U.S. fishing trawlers working in areas populated by sea turtles.