Sea turtles or members of the superfamily know as Chelonioidea, are one of my favorite creatures to encounter. There are actually 7 different species of of sea turtles including the leatherback sea turtle, green sea turtle(my personal fav), loggerhead sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, flatback sea turtle and olive ridley sea turtle. Its sad to note that four of these species are considered to critically endangered and are on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and two other are on the vulnerable list. These guys have been around for a very long time. The species that we know today have been here for around 110 million years. So you can understand the importance of conserving these ancient animals.
Sea turtles can be found in temperate and warm waters all over the globe. Often feeding and mating thousands of miles apart these guys travel huge distances. Sea turtles much like salmon return to mate to the same exact mating grounds they them self’s were hatched from. Spending a large majority of their life in the water is one of the reasons we know little about the actual behavior of the sea turtle. The majority of infomation that we do have about sea turtle behavior we gathered for the observations made of mating sea turtle and hacthings while they are on land.
Once mating is complete the female sea turtle will find a place to dig a nest for her eggs using her rear legs. After she has dropped her clutch of eggs into her newly made nest she will cover them up and return to the ocean until the next mating season. Once her young have hatched and dug there way to the surface, usually taking about a week to do so they to will return to waters of their parents to spend their lives in solidarity until it is time for them to return to the same sands they were born in to repeat the cycle.
An interesting thing to note is that very little is actually known about the habits of male sea turtles as once they hatch and leave the beach for the warm waters of the ocean they never return. They spend their lives at sea. Able to dive deeply and stay submerged for lengths of time as much as five hours. their heart rate slows to conserve oxygen which is what allows them to stay under water for so long. Being able to slow their heart rate to around a beat every nine minuets helps them to accomplish this amazing feat.
Just because these little fellas can hold their breath a long time doesn’t mean that they don’t need oxygen. This is one of the major threats to the safety of the sea turtle as often they are found trapped in the nets of fishermen where unable to surface they drown. This along with fisherman’s traps and abandoned nets and debris claim the life’s of many others. Though lots of advances have been made in recent years to help protect these ancient creatures. These are not the only threat to sea turtle, beach development, hunting and poaching as well as world wide pollution has played its roll in the decline of sea turtles as well.
The diets of sea turtles vary among the seven species. Though most all of them are considered to be omnivores except for my favorite the Green Sea Turtle who thought when young are carnivoresgrow to be herbivores as adults. Leatherback turtles play an important roll in controlling jellyfish populations as they are the favorite dish of this species. With other species dining on everything from sea sponges to shrimp and other fish, algae and seaweeds.
Sea turtles are truly one of the most mysterious and beautiful creature you may encounter once you begin diving. I encourage you to learn all you can about them as like I said they are defiantly a fan favorite. If you ever are fortunate enough to encounter one while diving take to time to appreciate this guy he’s been here a while, some of them live to be 100+ years old.
The first thing you may notice about them when you first see a sea turtle is how much larger than their land locked cousins they can grow to be. The biggest reason for this being their habitat. The ocean is an immense place with sea turtles being able to travel 1400 miles or more between mating and feeding grounds gives these guys more room to live and to grow. All due to the vastness of their natural habitat the ocean.
There’s so much to learn about these wonderful guys and still much more to learn. I honestly hope that I’ve been able to give you a good introduction to my favorite friend the sea turtle. I’m sure we will touch on this guy again in the future as we’ve only scratched the surface here. In the future we will take a look at each species individually and get to know more about them each on a personal level. So keep coming back. Let us know which one is your favorite. Then like we always say get out there, grab your gear and get to know these guys in there home environment. I can promise you wont regret it.