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7 Types Of Sea Turtle Species

Sea turtle species, numbering only seven distinct types, are some of the most magnificent and vital creatures in our marine ecosystems. Each of these species of sea turtles, including green turtles and leatherback turtles, plays a crucial role in marine ecosystems. Despite their majestic presence in our oceans, a majority of them are alarmingly close to extinction.

Protected under the Endangered Species Act, many of these species, such as loggerhead sea turtles and hawksbill turtles, are found in the waters of the United States and are profoundly affected by climate change. These vast reptiles spend the majority of their lives navigating the vast expanses of our oceans, only venturing onto land during the pivotal moments to lay their eggs.

Being reptiles, sea turtles breathe air, with some species showcasing unique behaviors like the ability to breathe through their butts. Intriguingly, their lifespan can stretch to an estimated 80 years, and during this time, they face numerous challenges. Natural predators, such as raccoons, birds, crabs, and ants, pose significant threats, especially to vulnerable hatchlings and eggs. These predators are just one aspect of the struggle for survival that sea turtles face.

However, the dangers are not solely natural. Human actions have led to the oceans being littered with trash, including plastics that sea turtles can mistakenly eat, thinking they are jellyfish. This includes sea turtle nests being disturbed and hatchlings disoriented by artificial lights, as well as the threat of international trade of turtle meat and shells.

Sea turtles, particularly adult sea turtles, are often victims of accidental entanglement in fishing nets, despite being air-breathing reptiles.

Abandoned fishing equipment and the cruel practice of harvesting them for their shells are other human-induced threats. Add to this, the issues like migration challenges, hatching seasons, and the various factors endangering them, and you realize the depth of their struggle.

Global warming is also an issue for sea turtles since the sex of the hatchlings of many sea turtle species, like the green and loggerhead, is determined by the temperature of the sand, with warmer temperatures typically producing female turtles.

The U.S. Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic Administration play crucial roles in conserving different species of turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley and flatback turtles.

Delve deeper to understand the size variations, the unique way they sleep, and even the thrill of snorkeling alongside them. To truly appreciate these beings, it’s essential to be armed with all the facts and to understand their interactions with both the natural world and our human-made challenges.

Sea Turtle Species

Discover fascinating details about the unique sea turtles that inhabit our oceans. Here’s a brief overview of each species, for more on each sea turtle species click on the title of each and you’ll be taken to a full guide about them:

1. Flatback Sea Turtle

  • Scientific Name: Natator Depressus
  • Size: The average adult size measures to about 3.25 feet or 99 cm. in carapace length
  • Weight: On average, adults weigh 198 pounds or 90 kg

The Flatback is distinct with its uniquely flattened body profile. This species is often found in Indian oceans, navigating through coral reefs and open ocean environments. This turtle, measuring on average 3.25 feet, has a weight of around 198 pounds. Native to Australia’s northern coast, it has a significant cultural value to Indigenous Australians.

2. Green Sea Turtle

  • Scientific Name: Chelonia Mydas
  • Size: Average nesting female carapace (shell) is about 32 to 43 inches (80 to 110 cm)
  • Weight: Average nesting female is about 243 to 408 pounds (110 to 185 kg)

Green sea turtles, also known as Chelonia mydas, are a vital part of the marine environment, often seen during the nesting season in U.S. waters. Recognized by its smooth, heart-shaped shell, the Green Sea Turtle stands out with its rich greenish flesh. A nesting female typically measures 32 to 43 inches and weighs between 243 to 408 pounds.

3. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Scientific Name: Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Size: The average adult size falls between 30 to 35 inches (2.5 to 2.92 feet)
  • Weight: Between 101 pounds (45 kg) and 154 pounds (70 kg)

Distinguished by its hawk-like beak, the Hawksbill possesses a beautifully patterned shell. With an average adult size of 30 to 35 inches, they weigh between 101 and 154 pounds.

4. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

  • Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempii (Latin). Tortuga Lora (Spanish)
  • Size: Average adult carapace (shell) is about 24 inches (65 cm)
  • Weight: Average adult is about 77 – 100 pounds (35 – 45 kg)

The rarest sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridley is renowned for its synchronized nesting called “arribadas”. Smaller in stature, they’re often grayish-green and are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kemp’s ridley turtles are known for their powerful jaws and are often found in the temperate waters of North Carolina, migrating long distances to reach their nesting sites.

5. Leatherback Sea Turtle

  • Scientific Name: Dermochelys Coriacea
  • Size: About 6 feet (1.8 meters) front to back. With the front arm span around 8 feet (2.5 meters)
  • Weight: Between 1200 pounds (550 kg) and 1450 pounds (664 kg)

The largest of all sea turtles, Leatherbacks lack a hard shell. Leatherback turtles are known for their leathery skin, distinguishing them as the only sea turtle without a hard, bony shell. Measuring approximately 6 feet with an arm span of 8 feet, they can weigh between 1200 to 1450 pounds. Their ability to regulate body temperature sets them apart.

6. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

loggerhead sea turtle on sea floor
  • 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

Loggerhead turtles, scientifically known as Caretta caretta, are commonly affected by fishing gear, particularly in the open ocean. Identified by its large head, the Loggerhead thrives in shallow waters over continental shelves. With a shell size ranging from 35 inches to 3 feet, they can weigh 154 pounds and more.

7. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

  • Scientific Name: Lepidochelys Olivacea
  • Size: The average adult size can range between 22 to 30 inches (55 to 75 cm)
  • Weight: Average nesting females can weigh around 77 pounds (35kg) and up to 100lbs (45kg)

This small and agile turtle is known for its olive-green hue. Adult sizes vary between 22 to 30 inches, and nesting females weigh from 77 to 100 pounds. They are famed for their mass nesting events.

Olive ridley turtles, along with most common sea turtle species, are listed under the IUCN Red List as endangered sea turtles.

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