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Sea Turtles. Maia McGuire, PhD Sea Grant Extension Agent. Sea turtle, terrapin or tortoise?. Where does it live (ocean, fresh water or land)? Can it retract its flippers and head into its shell? All lay eggs on land. All are reptiles. Some fresh water “turtles”. Softshell turtle

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Sea turtles

Sea Turtles

Maia McGuire, PhD

Sea Grant Extension Agent


Sea turtle terrapin or tortoise
Sea turtle, terrapin or tortoise?

  • Where does it live (ocean, fresh water or land)?

  • Can it retract its flippers and head into its shell?

  • All lay eggs on land.

  • All are reptiles.


Some fresh water turtles
Some fresh water “turtles”

  • Softshell turtle

  • Alligator snapping turtle

  • Diamondback terrapin

  • Red-eared mud slider

www.enature.com


Land turtle
Land “turtle”

  • Gopher turtle

www.enature.com


Turtle anatomy
Turtle anatomy

  • Carapace (upper shell)

  • Plastron (lower shell)

  • Scutes (plates that make up the shell)

    • Medial, lateral, marginal

http://zygote.swarthmore.edu/turtle.html


Sea turtles1
Sea turtles

  • Common characteristics

  • Types

  • Life history strategies

  • Threats

  • Conservation


Sea turtle characteristics
Sea turtle characteristics

  • Cannot retract flippers, head into shell

  • Salt glands behind eyes secrete salt (“tears”)

  • Nesting females return to the beach where they hatched (summer months)

  • Sex of turtle hatchlings is determined by temperature (warm= female; cool = male)


Loggerhead turtle
Loggerhead turtle

  • Named for its large head

  • Adults:200-350 lbs, carapace about 3’ long

  • Main foods are crustaceans, clams, etc.

  • Mature in 12-30 yrs

  • Adults stay close to shore, feed in estuaries or on continental shelf

  • Reddish-brown carapace



Green sea turtle
Green Sea Turtle Florida

  • Named for its green body fat

  • Adults:300-350 lbs, carapace about 3’ long

  • Main food is seagrass

  • Mature in 20-50 yrs

  • Olive-brown carapace

  • Formerly hunted for soup


www.turtles.org


Leatherback turtle
Leatherback turtle endangered species

  • Back is covered with leathery skin, with 7 ridges running down the back

  • Largest of the sea turtles—adults are 4-8’ long and weigh 500-1500 lbs

  • Main food is jellyfish

  • Can dive to 3000 feet

  • Can regulate body

    temperature

National Marine Fisheries Service


  • Some leatherbacks (30-60) nest in Florida each year endangered species

  • Nests contain 80 fertile eggs & 30 unfertilized eggs

  • One turtle nests 6-9 times per season, every 2-3 years

  • Eggs incubate for 65 days

  • Hatchlings are 2.5” long

  • Leatherback turtles are federally listed as an endangered species

www.unc.edu


Hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill Turtle endangered species

  • Named for its beak

  • Adults:100-200 lbs, carapace about 2.5’ long

  • Main food is sponges

  • Mature in 3-5 yrs in captivity

  • Patterned carapace

  • Formerly hunted for its shell (tortoiseshell)

NOAA



Kemp s ridley
Kemp’s Ridley each year

  • Rarest sea turtle in the world

  • Adult carapace is 2-2.5 feet long, weighs 85-100 lbs

  • Main food is crabs

  • Shell is olive-gray

http://www.cccturtle.org/species.htm


  • Nests in daytime each year

  • Only nests on one beach (Mexico)—mass nesting called “arribada” (arrival)

  • Each turtle lays 2 clutches per year, each year

  • Nests contain 105 eggs

  • Eggs incubate for 55 days

  • Hatchlings are 1.5” long

  • Federally listed as an endangered species


Early life history strategies
Early life history strategies each year

  • Hatchlings swim out to the Gulf Stream

  • Young turtles are carried around the Atlantic Ocean by oceanic currents for as long as 10-15 years

  • Young turtles are often found in floating mats of Sargassum seaweed

  • Less than 1% probably survive 1 year; 1 in 10,000 may reach maturity


Threats
Threats each year

  • Natural

    • Threats to eggs

      • Raccoons

      • Storms/flooding

    • Predators (of hatchlings)

      • Ghost crabs, sea birds, sharks, fish

    • Predators (of adults)

      • Sharks, killer whales


Human threats
Human threats each year

  • Alteration of beaches/shorelines

  • Artificial lighting

  • Beach driving

  • Fishing gear

  • Boat strikes

  • Poaching

  • Marine debris (plastics, balloons)


Conservation efforts
Conservation efforts each year

  • Lighting ordinances

  • Habitat conservation plans

  • Turtle excluder devices

  • Volunteer turtle patrols

  • Satellite tagging

www.cccturtle.org


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