Sea Turtles

STATUS:
All sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act, which lists all species as "endangered" except the loggerhead, which is listed as "threatened."

DESCRIPTION:
There are seven species of sea turtles:

GREEN:
(Chelonia mydas): Medium- to large-sized, brownish turtle with mottled patterns of markings on its shell. The green sea turtle usually lives among sea grass. The green turtle measures 36 to 43 inches and weighs 200 to 300 pounds.

Hawksbill:
(Eretmochelys imbricata): Small- to medium-sized turtle with shield-like plates on its shell. The Hawksbill turtle is the source of the term "tortoise shell" because of the pattern of markings on its shell. The Hawksbill measures 30 to 36 inches and weighs 100 to 200 pounds.

Kemp's Ridley:
(Lepidochelys kempii): The smallest and the most endangered of all the sea turtles, the Kemp's Ridley has an oval-shaped shell that is olive-gray in color. On average, it reaches up to 30 inches long and weighs 80 to 100 pounds.

Olive Ridley:
(Lepidochelys olivacea): This turtle is named for its olive-colored shell. The Olive Ridley has a wide, heart-shaped shell and a greenish-white underside. It is 24 to 30 inches long and weighs 90 to 100 pounds.

Leatherback:
(Dermochelys coriacea): This turtle is the largest living sea turtle. The leatherback has large limbs and no claws. It has no shell but instead has a leathery back with raised gray stripes. It can reach a 6 feet in length and weigh up to 1,400 pounds.

Loggerhead:
(Caretta caretta): The loggerhead has reddish-brown markings, it can reach 33 to 40 inches in length and weigh 150 to 400 pounds.

Australian Flatback:
(Natator depressus): This turtle is named for it's flat back and because it is found only in the waters of Australia. The Australian Flatback can weigh up to 200 pounds and reach 40 inches in length.

OFFSPRING:
In April or May, the female sea turtle will build a nest of loose dirt in a mound by the water's edge and lay 35 to 50 eggs. She buries the eggs and fiercely guards her nest. When the eggs hatch in July or early August, the female helps carry her young to the water, but, unlike the alligator, she will not continue to care for her young.

POPULATION:
The worldwide population for each species is unknown.

LIFE SPAN:
Most sea turtles live approximately 15 to 20 years and may reach as much as 80 years!

RANGE:
Sea turtles migrate hundreds of miles between nesting and feeding grounds.

HABITAT:
Sea turtles are found in most marine habitats.

FOOD:
The main diet of sea turtles includes jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, snails, algae and mollusks.

OFFSPRING:
Female turtles typically return to the same beach where they were hatched to lay eggs. The female lays up to 120 eggs into her nest.

THREATS:
Human activity has greatly reduced the sea turtle population through capture, harvesting of eggs, alteration and destruction of nesting beaches, ocean pollution and fishing and shrimp nets.

PROTECTIONS:
Endangered Species Act, *CITES, Appendix I

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if it does not harm their survival.