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Sea Turtle Species

Submitted by admin on 2009-11-06 | Last Modified on 2010-07-05

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Sea turtles are beautiful creatures which often grace scuba divers with their presence and as divers know, it's a lovely experience- swimming alongside these endangered animals. There are seven species of sea turtles, some more common than others. One of the most commonly seen turtle by scuba divers around the U.S is the Loggerhead Turtle. The dangers of a newly hatched sea turtle are one of the greatest of any animal and out of the fifty to one hundred and fifty eggs laid by most turtles, it is said less than one third survive to reach adulthood.

Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta Caretta)

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Image by c.lathe

These large sea turtles can grow in excess of a meter and weigh over 300 kilograms, their shell is a brownish-red colour and their skin a light yellow-brown colour. The nesting season of the Loggerhead Turtle is generally in June and July though can vary, depending on location. The Loggerhead turtle is the most common sea turtle seen in the waters around the United States of America, with Florida being their prime nesting ground. You can find Loggerhead turtles in fairly shallow waters such as lagoons, river mouths and are also often seen around reefs. The Loggerhead turtle has an impressive life span which tends to exceed 30 years and can even exceed 70 years. The Loggerhead's diet consists of crabs, jellyfish and various mollusks.

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricate)

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Image by Tanya G Burnett

The Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species of turtle which can be distinguished by its curved beak. They can grow up to a meter in length and weigh in at around 80 kilograms, though there have been recordings of Hawksbill turtles in excess of 100 kilograms being caught. Their shell’s consists of black or dark brown streaks with lighter tones of brown and hints of red and yellow. While the Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species and are far from common they can be found in most of the waters of the world, the majority of breeding grounds tend to be in the Caribbean with minor nesting sites in the Pacific ocean, with a fairly large breeding area on Milman Island in the Great Barrier Reef. They can be found in fairly shallow waters and are often seen resting on ledges along reefs. The Hawksbill turtle's primary food source is sea sponges and occasionally jellyfish and anemone.

Flatback Turtle (Natator Depressus)

This rare turtle can only be found in a small portion of the Pacific Ocean and only breeds only on the Northern Coast of Australia. They can be found in Papua New Guinea, Australia (particularly along the Great Barrier Reef as well as Indonesia. The Flatback turtle usually grows to just short of 1 meter in length and is distinguished by its olive-grey colouring and single pair of scales above its head. The Flatback turtle's diet consists of soft corals, squid, sea grass and mollusks.

Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys Coriacea)

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Image by Paul Mannix

Probably the most interesting of the sea turtles, the Leatherback turtle grows up to 2 meters in length and can weigh in at over 650 kilograms. Unlike most species of sea turtles which tend to remain in the shallows, this critically endangered species can descend down to depths in excess of 1200 meters, deeper than any other reptile currently in existence. The biggest physical difference between the Leatherback turtle and other species of sea turtles is the lack of a bony shell, instead the Leatherback turtle has a oily flesh back, the only turtle with this characteristic. To boast these creatures also hold the record for the fastest speed of any reptile, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in 1992, it is said to be able to reach speeds of almost 10 meters per second. Sadly due to the practice of egg collecting in Malaysia the species is in a major threat in that area. The Leatherback turtle can be found all around the world, though their appearances are quite rare they are able to live in conditions colder than that of normal turtles and have been spotted as far south as Cape Town, South Africa. Their primary location for nesting remains the Caribbean sea and the extremely vital Mayumba National Park, which sees the arrival of nearly 30 000 turtles each year.

Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea)

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Image by Stacina

This small species of sea turtle is also known as the Pacific Ridley and remains fairly common, only being rated as 'vulnerable' above the 'endangered' threshold. They have an average size of 76 centimeters and weigh in at only 46 kilograms, less than one tenth the weight of the Leatherback Turtle. They can be identified by their small size and its dark olive green shell with yellow underbelly, the body of the Olive Ridley Turtle is also quite round and dome-shaped compared to its generally flat counterparts. The breeding locations of the Olive Ridley are spread, but the majority of breeding is done along the lower west coast of North America as well as Bangladesh. They can be found along the African coast, parts of South America, the West Coast of the United States, as well as throughout the Indo-Pacific. Their diet consists primarily of crabs, lobsters, fish, snails and sea grass.

Green Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)

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Image by Mark Webster

A large sea turtle which can be seen throughout tropical and subtropical regions, the Green Turtle is listed as an endangered species. Green Turtles can be found along coast lines and lagoons. They have breeding grounds spanning over a larger area than any of the other sea turtles, from the coasts of Africa, South America and Caribbean- to various islands in the Indo-Pacific. They have a lifespan of about 80 years for the ones lucky enough to survive the test of adolescence. The Green turtle can be distinguished by its flat body, fairly jagged rim of the shell and it's fairly large size, they can grow to lengths in excess of 1.5 meters and weigh in at around 200 kilograms. The Green turtle is primarily herbivorous living off sea grasses.

Kemp's Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Kempii)

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Image by Templarion

One of the most endangered species of sea turtles, the Kemp's Ridley is listed as a critically endangered species, their breeding is traced to a single beach in Tamaulipas, Mexico by the name of Rancho Nuevo. Their presence extends from the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean, up the East Coast of the United States, though the Kemp's Ridley prefers the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Their carapace is a grey-ish green colour with yellow-green or white plastron. It is said that as early as 60 years ago there were almost 90 000 nesting females, but by the mid 80's this number had dwindled down to around 1000. It is interesting to note that the Kemp's Ridley is also the only sea turtle to lay it's eggs during the day. The Kemp's Ridley turtle is also the smallest sea turtle with a size of around 2 feet and an average weight of only 45 kilograms.


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