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Critters of the Chesapeake Bay Sea Turtles
SEA TURTLES Between 5,000 and 10,000 sea turtles enter the Chesapeake Bay each spring or summer.
SEA TURTLES Most of these are loggerheads or Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that are using the bay as a feeding ground.
SEA TURTLES The green and the leatherback sea turtles are also found in Virginia waters and even one stranded hawksbill has been reported.
SEA TURTLES Scientists usually recognize seven different species of sea turtles. Today, we’ll just look at the five found in our area.
Loggerhead Most of the sea turtles we see in Virginia’s waters are loggerheads.
Loggerhead Female loggerheads even nest in Virginia in the less populated beaches like those of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Loggerhead Adult loggerheads can grow to over 100cm and weigh over 300 pounds.
Loggerhead Loggerheads feed on jellyfish, crabs, mollusks, sponges, and aquatic plants.
Kemp’s Ridley Kemp’s ridleys are the most endangered of all sea turtles.
Kemp’s Ridley Adult ridley’s are 80-120 pounds and up to 75 cm in length.
Kemp’s Ridley Their main nesting site is in Mexico where the females lay about 100 eggs.
Kemp’s Ridley They live their first years offshore where they eat small animals and plants they find in mats of floating algae.
Kemp’s Ridley As adults, they move into shallow coastal areas where crabs become their preferred food.
Leatherback The leatherback is the largest turtle and largest living reptile in the world!
Leatherback Adults can be 2 meters long and weigh almost 900kg (2000 pounds).
Leatherback It is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard, bony shell or carapace.
Leatherback The leatherback has a 4cm thick, leathery, oil saturated connective tissue overlaying loose dermal bones.
Leatherback Female leatherbacks lay about 100 eggs on sandy tropical beaches.
Leatherback Adult leatherbacks feed on jellyfish and other soft bodied organisms in the open ocean.
Green Green sea turtles are actually farmed in the tropics.
Green Green sea turtles are easily distinguished from other sea turtles by the single pair of scales in front of the eyes. Others have two pairs.
Green Male green sea turtles can be distinguished from the females by their large tail. This is lacking in the females.
Green Adult green turtles weigh 400+ pounds with the record turtle at 871 pounds.
Green Green sea turtles are the only sea turtles that are strictly plant eaters as adults.
Hawksbill Hawksbill turtles are more common in the tropical sea where sponges are the main part of their diet.
Hawksbill This species has extra pressure from humans because of the “tortoiseshell” jewelry industry.
Hawksbill The hawksbill is a medium-small turtle with adults weighing 60-190 pounds.
Hawksbill This turtle can be distinguished from the others by the hooked beak formed by the yellowish jaws.