There seems to be a day for almost everything and the magnificent sea turtle has not been forgotten. June 16th is World Sea Turtle Day. Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles which means they have to come to the surface of the water periodically. There are seven species and all are endangered.
Sea turtles are found in tropical or subtropical ocean waters all over the world. The only ocean where you won’t find them is the polar regions. Most of a sea turtle’s life is spent swimming in the oceans. Dozens of countries have the unique privilege of having their beaches used as the place the sea turtle will lay between 50 and 200 eggs. A unique thing about sea turtles is the sand determines the gender of the egg. If the temperature of the sand is cool, more males are hatched; if the temperature of the sand is warm, more females are hatched. The eggs incubate for approximately 60 days. It is very important that the eggs are not disturbed during this time. When the eggs hatch, hundreds of baby turtles race towards the ocean. Unfortunately, for many their life is cut short; they are eaten by various predators; crabs and gulls are just two of their enemies. Sea turtles serve a useful purpose, they help control the population of jellyfish, sponges, and other sea creatures.
The Leatherback is the largest of the seven. It is between 4 and 8 feet long and weighs somewhere in the range of 500 to 2,000 pounds. Leatherbacks eat jellyfish exclusively.
The Green sea turtle is right behind the Leatherback in size. It is about 4 feet long and weighs up to 500 pounds. Green sea turtles eat only plants. They act like a lawn mower keeping sea grass short so it remains healthy. The Green sea turtle is the only one of the seven that basks in the sun. It likes the shores of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island chain, the Galapagos Islands, and Australia.
The Loggerhead sea turtle can reach 4 feet in length and weigh around 400 pounds. It lives in the Pacific, Indian, and the Atlantic Oceans. From a human’s viewpoint, these sea turtles have an expensive appetite; they mainly eat crustaceans like lobster and crab. Loggerheads can be spotted from both coasts of the United States, but (in the USA) they only nest on the Atlantic beaches of Florida.
The Flatback turtle can weigh 200 pounds and reach 3 feet in length. It breeds and nests only in Australia. It lives in the tropical coastal waters of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia. It feeds on soft corals, shrimp, crabs, and seaweed.
The Hawksbill sea turtle weighs up to 100 pounds and can get up to three feet in length. It loves to eat sponges (natural ones that live in the water). Look for them in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, oceanic islands and shallow coastal areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle is the second smallest. It weighs up to 100 pounds and 2.5 feet long. Although it is small, it has a big appetite; it likes variety (crabs, shrimp, lobster, etc.). It lives mainly in the tropical waters of the three oceans.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the smallest of the seven. It is about 2 feet long and weighs about 100 pounds. Its favorite food is crab. It lives in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as far north as Nova Scotia. It primarily nests in Tamaulipas, Mexico.
We hear about swimming with the dolphins; how abut swimming with sea turtles!
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