Today is World Sea Turtle Day, a day when we highlight one of the ocean’s gentlest creatures. Sea turtles are one of our favorite finfriends, and Mermaiden Zoey’s animal companion is Cooper the sea turtle!
Brush up on sea turtle trivia in honor of this holiday and wow your pod with your new knowledge!
How many sea turtle species are there?
Seven sea turtle species live in the oceans, and each one is threatened or endangered.
The IUCN Red List has hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles on the critically endangered list and green sea turtles on the endangered list. Leatherback, olive ridley, and loggerhead turtles are listed as threatened.
Flatback turtles are not on any of these lists, but Australia has listed them as endangered1.
Where do they live?
Many people associate sea turtles with Australia, but the flatback turtle is the only species that lives solely in Australian waters. The other species migrate around the world to both cool and tropical locations.
Some loggerheads travel from Asia to Mexico, swimming thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. You can find leatherbacks as far south as Chile and as far north as Alaska.
What do they eat?
What sea turtles eat varies between species. Most are omnivores, but green turtles are herbivores and eat mostly seaweed and algae.
The others will eat a range of other sea creatures, but each species tends to have its favorites2. Leatherbacks eat jellyfish, loggerheads like clams, hawksbills eat sponges and invertebrates, and Kemp’s ridley likes crabs.
How long do sea turtles live?
Did you know that ancient sea turtles were alive at the same time as the dinosaurs? They’ve been around for 110 million years, and they have a long lifespan compared to many other animals. Their natural lifespan ranges between 50 and 100 years.
Because of their long lives, most sea turtles don’t mature until they’re 20 to 30 years old3. They will then reproduce and lay eggs for the next 10 years or so, but some will nest every year until they’re 80! A female will lay thousands of eggs in her lifetime, but typically only 1 in every 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood.
How big do they get?
Each species of sea turtle is different in terms of size.
Leatherback sea turtles are the largest of the seven species, growing 6 to 9 feet long and weighing up to 2,000 pounds! Green sea turtles grow to about 3 feet long and weigh 300 to 350 pounds. Kemp’s ridley turtles are the smallest of the group, only growing to about 2 feet long and weighing 100 pounds.
Can sea turtles duck into their shells?
The turtles you find on land can easily duck into their shells for protection, but you won’t see a sea turtle do it because they physically can’t4. Their shells are part of their spines and act similarly to an exoskeleton. However, the turtle’s flippers and head are always exposed and vulnerable to injury.
Why are marine turtles threatened or endangered?
Several factors are contributing to dwindling sea turtle populations, most of which pertain to human activity.
People eat turtle meat and eggs and are taking over their habitat. Turtles drown in fishing nets because they can’t reach the surface to breathe, and they ingest ocean plastic because they mistake it for food.
Thankfully, there are things we can do to help.
Shellebrate World Sea Turtle Day with these gentle creatures
World Sea Turtle Day calls us to action to protect some of the gentlest creatures in the oceans, and our mer hearts want to do all we can! Simple ways the mer community can help is to protect the beaches where sea turtles nest and reduce plastic consumption.
What is your favorite fact about sea turtles? Let us know in the comments!