Sea turtles are one of the only existing animals that’s been around since the age of the dinosaurs. In this lesson, you’ll learn more about a sea turtle’s life cycle, diet, and threats to its well being.
Let’s take a dive into its ocean environment!
Most of us have seen turtles at the zoo, but imagine a turtle the length of a man, swimming through the ocean. Sea turtles are reptiles that live in the ocean and can be as long as 6.5 feet down to 2.5 feet. The smallest can be about 80 pounds, while the largest can weigh around 2,000 pounds! Sea turtles can be yellow, green, reddish-brown, or black in color, depending on the species.
Unlike other turtles, sea turtles are not able to pull their legs and head into their shells for protection.The life cycle of the sea turtle is a long journey, and only a few survive. While sea turtles can live up to 80 years, they start out as small eggs buried in the sand.
Nesting and Hatchlings
A female sea turtle will come to shore and dig a hole in the sand to lay 50-200 eggs. She then buries the hole and heads back to the ocean.Around 60 days later, the baby turtles break through their shells and dig out of the sand.
They then have to make their way to the ocean. The babies usually do this at night to avoid animals who might want to eat them, like crabs and birds. Once a baby reaches the water, it swims nearly non-stop to escape the shore. If a baby sea turtle survives its trip to the open ocean, it gets caught by the current and floats around for miles feeding on algae and seaweed.
Juveniles and Adults
As the turtle grows and gets stronger, it returns closer to the shore. It hangs out in feeding areas close to shore to finish growing. This can take years.
When sea turtles reach adult age, they head to the breeding grounds to mate. Mating season takes place from March to October. Then the males head back to the feeding area, and females go to the beach to lay their eggs.
Most females go back to the exact same beach from where they hatched!
Most turtles are considered omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals, though some are strictly plant or meat eaters. Plants they eat include seaweed, algae, and seagrass. They might also eat jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails, and other mollusks. Sea turtles’ jaws are shaped differently depending on what they eat, and many turtles have powerful jaws used for crushing shelled animals.
Status and Threats
Sea turtles have a strong shell, almost like armor, to protect themselves from many natural enemies.
However, the threats people have put on them have made almost all types of sea turtles endangered, the classification given to a species when it is in danger of not surviving.There are different kinds of human threats sea turtles have to deal with.
Fishermen have many pieces of equipment that can harm sea turtles. The turtles can get trapped in long lines and fishing nets. Fishing also disturbs a turtle’s environment and food supply.
Many sea turtles are taken out of the ocean and killed for food, oil, leather, jewelry, and their shells. There have been laws passed to stop this, but it is still a problem in some countries.
Things like boat traffic can scare away or injure turtles. Also, when people build hotels and other structures close to the shoreline, it disturbs where sea turtles lay eggs.
Oil spills can damage sea turtle bodies, inside and out. The garbage that people leave behind is also very hazardous. It can be ingested into their bodies, or they can get tangled up in it.
Sea turtles can grow up to around six feet long and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. After they hatch and return to the ocean, they spend many years growing into adult turtles.
Most sea turtles are omnivores, and most species are endangered.