Sea turtles (marine turtles) belong to the order Testudines and the suborder Cryptodira. They are one of the most harmless and fascinating creatures in the marine world.
Turtles are known mostly for their hard shells, their important role in maintaining the ecosystem, and their obsession with jellyfish! Well, we can assure you that jellyfish are not a surprising factor about sea turtles.
Did you know that temperature is the sex-determining factor for turtles? NO?!
So, if you’re curious about some amazing facts about sea turtles, this article is especially for you.
1. They don’t have teeth
Sea turtles do not have teeth. They use their powerful jaws and sharp beaks to crush and grind the food, which makes it easier for them to digest! Their jaws are so powerful that although they aren’t known to be aggressive, they can bite people if they feel endangered, which may even break bones.
2. They are herbivores
Sea turtles, unlike other turtles, are herbivores. They thrive on sea grasses and algae, sea mosses, etc. For this reason, they are also known as land mowers of the sea.
This very diet is what gives the green sea turtles the greenish fat!!
3. They sleep for 5-7 hours underwater
Like almost every animal, sea turtles need rest. Sea turtles sleep for 5-7 hours, and that too, underwater.
Sea turtles spend most of their time underwater when resting, but if the energy is used up or they are stressed, then they cannot stay underwater for long periods.
Sea turtles often rest on the sand, above the water, but mostly during the nesting period.
4. They lay over 110 eggs
Sea turtles can lay over 110 eggs at a time! The nests where they lay their own eggs are known as ‘clutches, ‘ and they nest over 2 – 6 clutches per season, on average!!
The smallest clutch has approximately 50 eggs, and the biggest ones, i.e., the one by hawksbill turtles, have over 200 eggs. The turtles are known to lay eggs on nesting beaches, and climate changes can affect the gender of the turtles.
5. Leatherback sea turtle weighs up to 998 kg
Yes!! Leatherback turtles weigh up to 998 kgs and are 4.5 – 5.5 feet long !! They’re the only sea turtles not to have a hard shell but a thick, leathery one!
6. The initial years of a sea turtle are missing
After the eggs and sea turtle hatchlings are born, they climb out of their clutches and run straight toward the waters. In the process, predators trap them, and only the fittest one survives.
This causes them to go missing for almost a decade, and only after 12 years do they come in contact with the other turtles.
B. How long do sea turtles live
Turtles are one of the longest-living members among the reptiles. A turtle can live for 50 – 200 years. The small turtles live as long as 50 years or even as long as a human lifespan. However, the larger ones are known to survive for over a century, sometimes even for over 180 years.
The rarest sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley, lives for as long as 80 years. However, Kemp’s Ridley isn’t seen as such nowadays since their numbers have drastically changed in the past years, making them critically endangered.
Can turtles live up to 500 years?
The estimated life span of a sea turtle or even a green turtle is 40-100 years. Sometimes, sea turtles can also live up to 150+ years.
The age of a sea turtle cannot be exactly determined, but it is often believed that in the rarest of rare cases, a sea turtle can live up to 500 years. However, nowadays, with the existing threats and many dangers of rising ocean temperatures, the lifespan of an average sea turtle generally ranges between 50-80 years.
C. Facts about the sea turtle family (sea turtle species)
Now that you know so much about sea turtles, their lifespan, and even some surprising facts about them, let us get started with knowing their family.
The sea turtle family has seven species. But, the WWF focuses mainly on 5 of the seven species of sea turtles found in oceans worldwide.
1. Green sea turtles
The Green Sea Turtles are uncompromisingly herbivorous and thrive mostly on sea grasses, mosses, and algae.
As mentioned earlier, their diet gives them the green color and, eventually, their name! Green turtles generally live for 70 years and migrate enormous distances throughout their lives.
These turtles are generally found in tropical and subtropical waters, nesting beaches, and coral reefs.
2. Hawksbill Turtles
Hawksbill turtles are one of the most critically endangered species of marine turtles. The hawksbill is known for its exceptionally pointed beak and their brown color.
The scales of a hawksbill differ from the other species of turtles. There are only 8,000 hawksbills, thus making them critically endangered.
3. Olive Ridley
Considered the most abundant species of marine turtles available, Olive Ridley is mostly found in the Pacific Ocean, and the species are decreasing in number, if not at immediate risk.
These species follow an omnivorous diet.
4. Leatherback turtle (luth)
The heaviest and the largest sea turtle species and the only one without a hard shell but a leatherback. The leatherback turtle is widely known for its protective covering.
This species takes up to 39 years to reach sexual maturity and has a life span of about 80 -90 years. Turtles from this species migrate long distances to lay eggs but prefer avoiding the cold oceans.
D. Dangers faced by the sea turtles
Be it a fully grown adult turtle or a baby turtle, we’re all aware of the many threats sea turtles around the world are facing.
There are several reasons for this; however, climate change, getting entangled in fishing gear, excess salt in the water, and rising sea levels are the main reasons.
1. Temperature and climate change
Temperature is a very important sex-determining factor for turtles. It is more likely for male turtles to be born in cooler temperatures, and for the females, it’s the warmer areas. However, with climate changes, more female baby turtles are being born, and ecologists believe that with more females being born, the genetic diversity will be affected.
Also, because of rising temperatures, the coral reefs are being destroyed, thus affecting their diet and marine habitats. With their habitat loss, the turtles are often forced to change their diets, eventually leading to death.
2. Accidental victims of fishing net
These marine reptiles get accidentally caught in fishing nets and cannot free themselves. Such accidental capture is one of the greatest threats to their existence.
3. Sea level rise
Due to the rise in sea levels, polar ice caps are melting, which, in turn, is threatening the existence of the beaches themselves; the turtles are slowly losing their nesting beaches. Yet, the rapid climate change seems impossible to control.
The female turtles go to the place where they were born to build their nest in order to lay their eggs. However, with the rising water levels in the ocean and the ocean waters capturing parts of the beaches, the turtles are losing their nesting beaches.
4. Incidents of oil spills
Often, ships and other vessels crossing the water bodies can spill oil into the water, and that reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water. Therefore, turtles cannot breathe, which is eventually becoming a leading factor for their extinction.
5. Coastal developments
Apart from the excess female hatchlings being born, coastal development is another problem for the turtle babies. When the eggs hatch and the babies are set on their journey from the nest towards the sea, often the lights from the other buildings on the coast confuse them, and they tend to go that way, assuming the lights as the natural light from the horizon.
Did you know they’re known as land mowers of the sea, and they dig their nests with their rear flippers? However, the human race must take the necessary steps to save them.