9 Fascinating Facts About Sea Turtles

Sea turtles have been around for millions of years and play a crucial role in specific ecosystems. Did you know that the oldest sea turtle fossil discovered was around 120 million years old?

Despite their importance, sea turtles are becoming an endangered species due to environmental changes. Here are nine fascinating facts about these amazing creatures.

There are seven different species of sea turtles.

The seven species are the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Kemps ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Flatback (Natator depressus), and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).

While the leatherback turtle can be found on both the east and west coast of the USA, as well as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, flatbacks are only found off the coast of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Olive ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. Kemp’s ridley turtles are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico, but they have been seen as far north as Nova Scotia in Canada.

The leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle.

Adult leatherback turtles can grow up to around 5.9-7.2 feet (1.8-2.2 meters) long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). They are the largest sea turtle species and the fourth heaviest modern reptile. Unlike other sea turtles, leatherbacks have a soft shell made from carapace, which is like a tough, rubbery skin.

Sea turtles help ecosystems.

Sea turtles play an essential role in some ecosystems by mainly eating seagrass, which promotes and stimulates plant growth. Very few sea creatures eat seagrass, making sea turtles and manatees crucial to the survival of these plants. Seagrass beds are important breeding and development areas for many sea creatures, and it is crucial these areas thrive. By regularly grazing, sea turtles maintain a thick, healthy bed as a habitat for other creatures to breed. Different turtles eat different things, such as jellyfish for the leatherback turtle and sea sponges for hawksbill turtles.

A sea turtle’s sex is determined by temperature.

Unlike most creatures where sex is determined during fertilization, for sea turtles, the temperature of the nest’s environment decides the sex of the hatchling. If the temperature is warmer than 82-84 °F (28-29 °C), the hatchling will be born female. If the temperature is below, the sea turtle will be born male. Scientists have noticed that warmer sand leads to a higher number of female hatchlings.

Given the current fluctuations in temperature caused by global warming, there is a growing concern about the potential impact it could have on the male to female ratio of hatchlings in the future.

Sea turtles were once revered.

The Moche people from Peru used to worship sea turtles.

The Moche civilization flourished between 100 AD and 700 AD, along the northeast coast of Peru, known for their fishing and agricultural practices, it is no surprise that sea turtles held a special place in their society.

Various artworks and artifacts from the Moche civilization depict sea turtles, suggesting that they played a crucial role in their culture.

It is believed that sea turtles may have been revered for their ability to consume box jellyfish, which can be fatal to humans.

By consuming box jellyfish, sea turtles help reduce the risk of humans getting stung.

Sea turtles have a symbiotic relationship with barnacles.

Sometimes, animals have a symbiotic relationship where one benefits from attaching itself to the other.

Some barnacles benefit from attaching themselves to sea turtles.

They usually attach themselves to the turtle’s shell or neck.

There are three reasons why sea turtles are great hosts for barnacles.

Firstly, they live for a long time, meaning that barnacles do not need to worry about finding a new home when their host dies.

However, sometimes the security of this relationship fails if the barnacle attaches itself to an area of skin or shell that the turtle ends up shedding.

Secondly, barnacles benefit from the constant flow of food by attaching themselves to the turtle’s neck, where they have access to food particles from the turtle’s food source.

Lastly, sea turtles travel long distances in different waters, providing a great opportunity for the barnacles to spread their larvae to diverse areas.

In this relationship, barnacles benefit more than sea turtles.

Some countries, such as Costa Rica, have developed ecotourism centered around sea turtles.

Visiting sea turtle conservation projects has become a popular vacation activity.

Tortuguero, Costa Rica, is recognized as the birthplace of this concept.

They have abandoned sea turtle meat and shell tourism in favor of conservation and ecotourism.

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation has assisted locals in setting up a sea turtle-protected area where tourists can witness turtles nesting and hatching, guided by locals.

This conservation project has created a 22-mile (35-kilometer) safe haven for turtles and a sustainable industry for locals.

The oldest sea turtle is 120 million years old!

Fossils and skeletons of sea turtles indicate that they coexisted with dinosaurs.

Sea turtles are one of the few reptiles that have survived the extinction of dinosaurs and are still around today.

However, the particular species of sea turtle found in Villa De Leyva, Colombia, known as Desmatochelys padillai, is now extinct.

The Desmatochelys padillai turtle skeleton was excavated in 2007 by Mary Luz Parra, a paleontologist, and her brothers.

During the Cretaceous period, which occurred between 145.5 million and 65.5 million years ago, sea turtles roamed the oceans. Sea turtles have a lifespan of around 50-100 years, with the hawksbill having the shortest lifespan of all the sea turtle species, averaging between 30-50 years. In contrast, the green turtle has the longest lifespan, averaging an age of around 80 years old but can sometimes live up to 100 years. It takes most sea turtles between 15-50 years to mature and become reproductively developed. As of 2019, Myrtle, a green sea turtle living at Cape Cod aquarium, was estimated to be around 90 years old based on the condition of his shell. Despite their impressive longevity, sea turtles are now an endangered species due to climate change, pollution, and poaching. Nevertheless, conservation projects are being established globally to protect these magnificent creatures of the sea.

FAQ

1. How long can sea turtles live?

Sea turtles are known for their longevity, with some species living up to 80 years or more. The exact lifespan of a sea turtle depends on the species, but most live for several decades. The oldest known sea turtle was an adult female that lived to be over 150 years old!

2. How many species of sea turtles are there?

There are seven different species of sea turtles, each with its own unique characteristics and habitat. These species include the green turtle, loggerhead turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, Kemp’s ridley turtle, flatback turtle, and leatherback turtle.

3. What is the biggest species of sea turtle?

The leatherback turtle is the largest species of sea turtle, with adults weighing up to 2,000 pounds and measuring over 6 feet in length. These turtles can also dive deeper than any other sea turtle, often reaching depths of over 4,200 feet.

4. What do sea turtles eat?

Sea turtles are primarily herbivores, with some species feeding almost exclusively on seagrasses and algae. However, some species, such as the loggerhead turtle, also eat crustaceans, jellyfish, and other small marine animals.

5. Why are sea turtles endangered?

Sea turtles face numerous threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. However, the biggest threat to sea turtles is human activity, such as coastal development, fishing, and poaching. All seven species of sea turtles are currently listed as endangered or threatened, making their conservation a top priority.

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