- Size: Their shell can range between 35 inches (90 cm) and 3 feet (1 meter).
- Weight: They can reach around 154 pounds (70 kg) and more.
- Habitat: They are found mostly in shallow waters over the continental shelf.
- Food: Carnivorous. Their menu consists of mainly mollusks and crustaceans. They also feed on giant clams, Queen conchs, and around the Florida area the horseshoe crabs.
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle still remains widespread, however due to the rise in coastal development, nesting sites are declining. Also light disturbances may be connected to false crawls (when sea turtles go ashore to nest unsuccessfully).
Light disturbances have appeared to cause disorientation in the nesting females and their hatchlings. They are also threatened by incidental capture in trawls and local exploitation.
In the United States alone an estimated 6,000 to 15,000 nest between the late spring and summer with around 100 to 125 eggs in a clutch. They nest four to five times a season.
All You Need to Know about Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Loggerhead sea turtles or Caretta Caretta are marine turtles. On an average, they grow up to lengths between 28 to 39 inches. The Loggerhead sea turtle is the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world.
As compared to different species of marine turtles, loggerhead turtles have larger heads. They also have strong, muscular jaws. As a result, they can easily crush their prey like lobsters and crabs. In this article, we will discuss all loggerhead turtle facts you need to know.
Physical Description of Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Most of the loggerhead sea turtles are widely distributed in coastal waters. They are commonly found in temperate and sub-tropical regions. Loggerhead sea turtles travel huge distances and follow warm currents like the California current or Gulf stream current.
Loggerhead sea turtles are one of the largest chelonia turtles. Moreover, they also carry encrusting organisms like barnacles. These are usually present on their carapace.
The quantity of these organisms in loggerheads is much more than other marine turtles. As mentioned earlier, loggerhead sea turtles are distinguished by strong jaws and large heads.
The carapace or shell of loggerhead sea turtles is reddish brown. On the other hand, the plastron or underbelly is pale yellow in color.
Loggerhead sea turtles are believed to sexually mature between 10 to 30 years of age. However, some studies also indicate that the age for sexual maturity may be between 30 to 37 years.
On an average, female loggerheads nest for 3 to 5 times every season. Each clutch contains 40 to 190 eggs. According to data acquired from USA, nesting of loggerhead sea turtles takes place every two years.
Current Population and Distribution
According to a recent estimate, the number of nesting female loggerhead sea turtles is over 60,000. Masirah island in Oman has over 30,000 nesting females annually.
As a result, it is the largest nesting population in the world. Another important region for analysing the number of nesting female loggerhead sea turtles is southeast USA. Around 15,000 female loggerheads nest in this region annually. Most of these are found in Florida.
Where do Loggerhead Sea Turtles Live
As mentioned above, loggerhead sea turtles can be commonly found in sub-tropical and coastal regions. They can also be seen in temperate waters, where they travel in search of food.
Many loggerhead sea turtles are found in the Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Nova Scotia. The highest population of loggerhead turtles has been noticed in North America.
They are most abundant in regions between North Carolina and Florida Keys. During winter season, loggerhead sea turtles migrate from Florida to Bahamas.
A small population of loggerhead sea turtles can also be found on barrier islands, near the Texas coast. As mentioned above, southeast USA forms their primary habitat.
However, it extends to South America and further to Mediterranean region and Africa. In fact, a very small population of loggerhead sea turtles can also be seen in Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Usually, the hatching habitat for loggerhead sea turtles is considered to be warm ocean currents. They also hatch in flotsam, like sargassum mats. On the other hand, reefs and rock outcroppings near shore form a major part of the adult habitat.
Adult habitat also includes mouths of inlets and brackish lagoons. Loggerhead sea turtles migrate for a long time, especially if they want to return to their nesting beaches.
What do Loggerhead Sea Turtles Eat
Loggerhead sea turtle predators have been studied for a very long time. For most part of their lives, loggerhead turtles remain carnivorous. You will easily notice hatchlings eating jellyfish, small gastropods, sponges, sargassum weed and crustaceans.
On the other hand, adults, sub-adults and juveniles eat clams, conch and horseshoe crab. Some of them also eat crustaceans. Due to a very powerful jaw, loggerhead sea turtles can easily crush their prey or its hard shell.
When loggerheads are migrating or traveling through the open sea, they tend to eat pteropods, floating egg clusters, jellyfish, flying fish, floating mollusks, squids and other similar types of foods.
Why are Loggerheads Important
Loggerheads are also very important for the balance in nature. They feed on their hard-shelled prey in such a way that it recycles essential nutrients and keeps ocean bed or floor sediments in complete balance.
Loggerhead sea turtles also carry numerous colonies of small animals and plants on their shells. These colonies serve as important habitat too. In fact, some studies and researches give astounding results.
According to them, more than 100 species of plants and animals are believed to live on a single loggerhead sea turtle.
Why are Loggerhead Sea Turtles Endangered
Loggerhead sea turtles are one of the most abundant marine turtles in United States waters. However, their population has significantly declined in the last few years.
The main reason has been shrimp trawling, pollution and development in nesting areas. There are many other factors why loggerhead sea turtles have been in the endangered species list.
Loggerhead sea turtles are one of the most common species of turtles in Mediterranean waters. These turtles nest on beaches from Turkey and Greece to Libya and Israel. However, most of their nesting beaches have been threatened by tourism development.
Loggerhead turtle migration is also an interesting subject. Loggerhead sea turtles are very migratory. As a result, they are vulnerable to accidental capture in fishing nets and long lines of fisheries.
However, some countries use turtle excluder devices with shrimp nets. This has reduced the threats. But the main problem is that these devices are not mandatory all around the world.
Some of the common threats affecting loggerhead sea turtles include :
- Habitat degradation and loss
- Wildlife trade
- Collection of meat and eggs for consumption
- Climate change
- Accidental capture
- Water pollution
One of the main threats to the mortality of loggerheads has been accidental capture by fisheries. Moreover, abandoned fishing nets also continue to catch loggerhead sea turtles for a long time.
On the other hand, pollution and habitat disturbance are the main threats to loggerheads in USA and Mediterranean region. In many areas, tourism development has also caused problems for the survival of this species.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Overview Video
|References: Groombridge, B. 1982. The IUCN Amphibia Reptilia Red Data Book:Testudines, Crocodylia, Rhynchocephalia. IUCN, Switzerland|