As sea turtle nesting and hatching season begins to draw to a close in the next month here in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind you of how amazing these marine reptiles really are. Not only are they absolutely adorable, but they are utterly fascinating, too!
We have rounded up some of the most weird and wonderful sea turtle facts to share with you. We promise you'll learn something new!
Sea Turtles Go Way Back
Sea turtles are some of the most ancient creatures on planet Earth. They have been around since the time of dinosaurs during the late Jurassic period. What's really interesting is how little they've changed over time. All sea turtles species, except for the leatherback, belong to the Cheloniidae family. The leatherback belongs to the Dermochelyidae family and is its only type that is still in existence.
Sea Turtles vs. Other Turtles
Unlike other turtles, the sea turtle cannot draw up its legs and head into its protective shell (also known as the carapace). The sea turtle’s major difference from other turtles is its shell. They have big shells that are made of bone and cartilage. Their color varies from species to species. The shells of all sea turtles, except the leatherback, have a layer of thin plates called scutes as a covering, which are flexible but firm. The species of sea turtle is mainly identified by the number and pattern of scutes. The leatherback turtle is the exception. It's shell has a leathery skin instead of scutes covering it, which acts as an insulator and enables the leatherback to easily survive in cold waters.
Sea Turtle Stats
There are seven species of sea turtles, six of which are either threatened or endangered. Humans pose the biggest threat to a sea turtle’s survival, which contributes to problems such as entanglement, habitat loss, and consumption of their eggs and meat. So incredibly sad!
Life at Sea
Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea. Since they don’t have to return to land to lay eggs, male sea turtles almost never leave the ocean. This can make it difficult to keep track of population numbers and to track in general. They are tricky creatures.
Swimmers and Travelers
Sea turtles are master swimmers and they love to travel. Leatherback sea turtles can travel more than 10,000 miles a year. That's a lot of swimming!
Green sea turtles can stay underwater for up to five hours, but their feeding dives usually only last five minutes or less. Not only are they master swimmers, but master divers, too.
Sea turtles tip the scales when it comes to weight. Leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Despite their size, they are still elegant and graceful in the water.
Sea Turtle Tears
Don't worry, they aren't sad. Sea turtles have glands that help to empty excess salt from their eyes, making it appear as though they’re crying. They’re just doing some spring cleaning.
Home is Where the Heart Is
During nesting season when it’s time to lay their eggs, female sea turtles return to the same nesting grounds where they were born. It's pretty amazing that no matter where they may be on their travels, sea turtles return to the beach of their birth to lay their eggs.
Boy or Girl?
During incubation, the sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the surrounding environment. Warm temperatures tend to produce more female hatchlings, whereas cooler temps result in males. When younger, sea turtles appear the same externally irrespective of their gender. As the turtles grow older, the males show longer and thicker tails as compared to their female counterparts. The tail of the males tends to extend further than the hind flippers. This is because the male’s reproductive organ is situated at the base of its tail.
Survival of the Fittest
It's a cruel, cruel world. It is estimated that only one hatchling in a thousand will make it to adulthood. Whether it’s the treacherous journey from nest to ocean, the predatory dangers of the open sea, or plain old human interference—the odds are stacked against them.
Well, did you learn something new about these fabulous reptiles of the sea? Hope so! If you'd like to learn even more, read more fascinating facts about sea turtles right here.
Remember, sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31 in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Keep an eye out for hatchlings on the beach!
What do you think is the coolest fact about sea turtles?