Loggerhead Sea Turtle – Endangered Species
Image: nps.gov (public domain)
Description: The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is named for its large head and blunt jaw. This huge sea turtle can grow to 800 pounds (though the average turtle is about 200 pounds) and three and a half feet in length. It is the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world. The carapace (shell) and flippers are reddish brown and the plastron (lower shell) is yellowish. The carapace has five lateral scutes and five central scutes. Scutes are hexagonal sections of the carapace. Underparts are white or whitish. These incredible turtles have powerful flippers that can propel them through the water at speeds of up to 16 miles per hour. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle has a life span of up to 50 years in the wild.
Habitat/Range: The seafaring Loggerhead Sea Turtle is found throughout the world’s tropical oceans. They are also found in temperate waters in search of food and in migration. Breeding populations exist in many locales including the Atlantic coast of the United States (from North Carolina to Florida), numerous Caribbean islands, Central America, the Mediterranean Sea, and Africa.
Diet: Loggerhead Sea Turtles consume fish, crustaceans, mollusks, crabs, and jellyfish, They use their powerful jaws to crush prey. These turtles often ingest stray plastic bags which are mistaken for jellyfish and which cause potentially fatal complications.
Nesting: The Female Loggerhead Sea Turtle normally lays her eggs on the same beach in which she was born. It may take up to 30 years before these turtles reach reproductive age. In June or July, females will emerge from the ocean and dig a hole in the sand. Between 70 and 150 eggs are deposited in the hole. She users her hind flippers to cover the hole. The eggs are about the size of ping pong balls. Eggs hatch within 65 days. Young turtles instinctively head toward the ocean upon hatching (which reflects the moonlight). Many of these young turtles are taken as prey by opportunistic gulls, vultures, and raccoons. Others are led in the wrong direction by lights from roads and beach houses which the turtles mistake as moonlight. Those that are fortunate enough to make it to the water are swept toward the open ocean by waves and sea currents.
Status: The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is classified as a threatened species. They have been historically hunted for their meat and shells. Thousands upon thousands of these turtles were killed in fishing and crabbing nets before TED’s (Turtle Exclusion Devices) were made mandatory in such nets.